Death Awareness, Compassion and Attitudes Toward People With Disabilities
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CitationEmbree, Richelle. 2020. Death Awareness, Compassion and Attitudes Toward People With Disabilities. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractAcross the world, people with disabilities have poorer economic, educational and health outcomes than people without disabilities (WHO and WBG, 2011). These disadvantages are the result of the complex interaction not only of health and personal factors but also of environmental factors that hinder individuals with disabilities from full participation in society (United Nations, 2006). Negative attitudes are often the greatest environmental barrier reported by people with disabilities (Findler, Vilchinsky, & Werner, 2007). Accordingly, the current study aimed to investigate how attitudes may be improved to create more accessible environments for individuals with disabilities.
Based on evidence to-date regarding the relationship between demographic factors and attitudes toward people with disabilities, the present study hypothesized that there will be no significant differences in attitudes toward people with disabilities with respect to gender, race/ethnicity and income, but that there will be significant differences with respect to age such that older individuals will have more negative attitudes toward people with disabilities than younger individuals. Furthermore, due to the strong relationship between death reminders and negative outcomes toward people with disabilities, the current study hypothesized that death awareness will be significantly associated with more negative attitudes toward people with disabilities. In addition, given that previous research has indicated that compassionate value reminders may moderate the effect of death awareness on political attitudes, this study further hypothesized that reminders of compassionate values will moderate the negative impact of death awareness on attitudes toward people with disabilities.
The SurveyMonkey platform was used to recruit participants online, gather demographic information, and conduct an online experiment wherein each participant in the study was primed with two topics: (1) death and compassion, or (2) death and a neutral (control) topic, or (3) dental pain (control) and compassion, or (4) dental pain (control) and neutral (control) topic. Attitudes toward people with disabilities was measured using the Attitudes to Disability Scale (ADS; Power et al., 2010).
Study results supported the hypotheses that there are no significant differences in attitudes toward people with disabilities with respect to gender, racial/ethnic groups and income levels, but that there are significant differences with respect to age. However, the results did not support the hypothesis that older people will have more negative attitudes toward people with disabilities than younger people, and further research that takes into consideration the relationship between death awareness and age is recommended. Moreover, study results supported the hypothesis that death awareness is significantly associated with negative attitudes toward people with disabilities but does not support the hypothesis regarding the moderating effect of compassion on the negative impact of death awareness on attitudes toward people with disabilities.
The study provides initial evidence on how compassionate value reminders may exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the negative impact of death awareness on attitudes toward disabilities. Further research on the possible confounding influence of compassion fatigue, conspicuous compassion, and empathic accuracy is recommended.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365623