Aversive Ableism: Subtle Discrimination and Prejudice Towards Disabled People
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In order to examine the complexities of subtle contemporary prejudice this dissertation helps reconceptualize ableism as a spectrum by establishing the viability of the concept of aversive ableism and exploring how explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) disability prejudice interweave. Social psychology research on contemporary racism, particularly aversive racism theory, was used as a window to examine this complex phenomenon. This dissertation examined aversive ableism by answering the following research question: how do different combinations of conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) prejudice apply to disability? In doing so I theorized people’s interaction with disabled people is most likely to be prejudiced in an aversive fashion. The aim of this study was then to establish a construct of aversive ableism by: examining the patterns of explicit and implicit disability prejudice; examining theoretical variables that may be aversive ableism and disability prejudice; and examining one-on-one interactions between nondisabled and disabled people. Part I of this study was the quantitative analysis of the participants’ implicit and explicit levels of disability prejudice using the Disability Attitudes Implicit Association Test, an adapted version of the Symbolic Racism Scale 2000, and other questions about demographics and relationships with disabled people. Part I was administered to eighty-four undergraduate and graduate students. One-quarter of part I participants (n = 21) also completed part II of this study, which involved an exit interview administered by a disabled interviewer. Findings revealed the majority of participants were prejudiced according to the aversive ableism pattern, with low explicit prejudice and high implicit prejudice. Participants understood disability through both concepts and different relationships to it. Accordingly, participants’ knowledge about disability and relationships with disability significantly related to aversive ableism. This study also had disabled and nondisabled people examine participants’ behavior for cues of prejudice. While disabled interviewers predicted participants’ explicit prejudice, nondisabled disability studies reviewers predicted both explicit and implicit prejudice, and significantly read markers of truly low prejudiced people. Meanwhile, nondisabled reviewers with no disability background could not predict any prejudice, suggesting nondisabled people without disability consciousness may not be able to read prejudiced situations.