A Naturalistic Analysis of Mental Illness Stigma in Undergraduate Psychology Courses

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Background: Psychology coursework may include opportunities to reduce mental illness stigma attitudes among college students. However, some strategies are known to backfire, and little is known about how these attitudes evolve during psychology coursework. Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine whether psychology students’ mental illness stigma attitudes change over the course of a semester. Method: This research examined changes in mental illness stigma across four undergraduate psychology courses: Introductory Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Basic Helping Skills, and Internship. Students (N = 400) completed two mental illness stigma measures at the beginning and end of the semester. Results: Regardless of course, students showed slightly decreased anxiety-related stigma regarding individuals with mental illness and lower social distancing attitudes toward individuals with schizophrenia, as well as increased perceptions of the treatability of mental illness, over the course of the semester. Conclusion: The findings suggest limited stigma reduction through the psychology curriculum. Teaching Implications: Greater emphasis on systematic efforts for stigma reduction across the psychology curriculum is warranted and instructors may want to consider developing gender-related stigma reduction methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTeaching of Psychology
StatePublished - 2022

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© The Author(s) 2022.


  • experiential learning
  • mental illness stigma
  • stigma reduction
  • teaching


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