Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2013

Capstone Advisor

Dr. Leonard Newman

Honors Reader

Dr. Peter Vanable

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component



Mental Illness, Stigma, Ambivalent Attitudes, Motivation, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Mental and Social Health | Psychology | Quantitative Psychology | Social Psychology


Prior research has demonstrated that much of the stigma of mental illness falls under the category of ambivalence. In other words, individuals hold both positive and negative impressions of mentally ill individuals and their attitudes tend to not be restricted to one side. On the positive end, they may feel sympathetic toward these individuals, as they understand they are not responsible for their illnesses. On the negative side, they may also believe these individuals are more unpredictable and dangerous than their mentally healthy counterparts. These ambivalent attitudes subsequently result in a feeling of uneasiness, as people feel more comfortable when their opinions and beliefs are set and unwavering. This discomfort may act as a motivating factor to reduce these conflicting attitudes. This study employed a questionnaire to examine mental illness stigma among three disorders (depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia), the extent to which participants exhibited ambivalent attitudes, as well as how motivated participants were to learn more about these disorders. Participants, undergraduate students, first completed a 12-item ambivalence measure in which they indicated the extent to which they felt positively and negatively towards the mentally ill. Next, felt ambivalence was measured through participants reporting how conflicted and confused they felt after thinking about a particular mental illness. Finally, respondents completed a final measure indicating how motivated they were to research the illnesses further. Results revealed differences in stigma among the three disorders as well as the existence of ambivalent attitudes and conflicting emotions regarding these illnesses. Gender differences were also evident as well as differences in stigmatizing beliefs among those who do and do not have personal experience with psychological disorders. Results indicated the connection between ambivalent beliefs and subsequent discomfort; however, ambivalence and discomfort was not found to be a significant predictor of one’s motivation to learn more about the illnesses.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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