Representative image
Representative image

Does age add to bias towards people with disability?

ANI | Updated: Jul 21, 2019 15:13 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], July 21 (ANI): Whenever a person with a disability comes in one's sight, the latter tends to show compassion and empathy. But a new study has shed light on human behaviour and found that as people age, they are more likely to show bias and less compassion towards disabled people.
This bias is known as 'ableism' and the findings suggest that this behaviour bolsters with age. The study also added that people try to conceal the real feelings and are less likely to show how they really feel publicly.
"Disabilities are a sensitive, uncomfortable topic for many people to talk about. Few are willing to acknowledge a bias toward people with disabilities," said William Chopik, senior author on the study.
The research published in the Journal of Social Issues, incorporated data from 300,000 participants for over 13 years. The participants in the study ranged from 18-90 years in age, out of which 15% classified themselves as having a disability.
The researchers asked participants about how much contact they had with a person from the disabled community using a scale of one to seven, 1 being "knowing someone" and 7 being "having constant contact" with a person with a disability.
The researchers also used surveys to measure implicit attitudes and explicit bias.
Study author Jenna Harder explained that an implicit attitude includes thoughts or feelings that happen automatically, which are hard to control, suppress or regulate.
On the other hand, explicit attitudes, she explained are the things people consciously agree with and are more controllable because it is how people express or portray their opinions about something publicly.
They found that implicit bias from respondents increased over time and with age, meaning that their compassion toward people with disabilities decreased over time.
But, when asked explicitly, participants shared more positive responses meaning that they outwardly portrayed positive opinions about people with disabilities.
"This is a big mystery because people outwardly say they feel less biased, but in actuality, the implicit attitude has been getting stronger as time goes on," co-author Chopik said.
She added that this might happen because it is "not popular to express negative opinions about people with disabilities, so perhaps they feel inclined to say nicer things publicly instead."
The findings also revealed that women felt less implicit bias, meaning that they are more compassionate towards the disabled.
"When you look at how men and women compare on the bias, women are more compassionate toward stigmatized groups," Harder said.
"As you interact more with a stigmatized group, you can potentially have more positive experiences with them, which changes your attitudes," he added.
The more visible a person's disability is, like needing a wheelchair, the stronger positive attitude they experienced. (ANI)

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