Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Laura E. VanderDrift


Attitudes, Career Decisions, Disability Training, Empathy, IOS, Prosocial

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Nearly 1 in every 5 Americans have some form of disability, creating a high demand for professionals who are interested in working with people with disability (PWD). However, many people are uncomfortable working with PWD, or are unwilling to put in the additional effort that may be necessary to meet their needs. As a result, PWD face many barriers when seeking services. Interventions to address this issue typically focus on changing attitudes or increasing empathy. While these components influence people’s behavior in the short-term, they do not completely account for the variability in people being willing to make sacrifices to put in additional time and effort to meet the needs of PWD. Given that feeling close and connected to a group of people makes a person more willing to go out of their way to help a member of that group (e.g., neighbors, family members, classmates), this work explored the association between self-other overlap and willingness to work with PWD. Across 3 studies, self-other overlap was uniquely associated with students’ willingness to work with PWD as part of one’s profession, even when controlling for attitudes and empathy. The main effects from a fourth study indicated self-other overlap-based enhanced brief intervention did not result in significant improvements in self-other overlap, compared to the other conditions. However, more work will be needed to verify this finding and address more conclusively whether self-other overlap is malleable to intervention in this context.


Open Access