Stereotypes about Adults with Learning Disabilities: Are Professionals a Cut Above the Rest?

Gulgoona Jamal


Purpose: The study examined the differing perceptions of professionals and the public (non-professionals) regarding life success for adults with learning disability (LD).

Method: The sample (N = 342) consisted of 175 professionals (P) and 167 non-professionals (NP), with a mean age of 30.02 years and S.D. = 12.42 years. Their perceptions about life success of an individual with learning disability were studied with the help of four vignettes that provided hypothetical information about the age, class, and hobbies of a college student. The four vignettes were identical in describing the student and only differed in terms of gender (M and F), and presence and absence of learning disability (LD and NLD).

Results: No significant difference was found between attitudes held by professionals and non-professionals. Both the groups showed significantly greater negative attitudes about perceived life success for adults with learning disability than for those without learning disability. The results have been discussed with the help of social psychological theories in the areas of attitude, bias, and stigmatization.

Conclusion and Implications: It is clear that a negative bias exists toward individuals with learning disability in the urban Indian milieu. The fact that not only the public but also professionals were biased against individuals with learning disability regarding their life success implies that negative stereotypes are deeply embedded. This research may provide the impetus to address issues like prevalence of stigma against learning disability in society, its effective attenuation as well as equality and inclusion for individuals with learning disability.


Attitudes; labelling; stereotypes

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