Attributing Schizophrenia to Genetics Leads to a Desire for Social Distance


When 149 students were randomly assigned to read one of six vignettes depicting a person with either schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression, with either a genetic or environmental causal attribution, researchers from the Universities of Wyoming and Oregon found that genetic attributions for schizophrenia (but not affective disorders) lead to a greater desire for social distance, due to perceived dangerousness, and a decreased willingness to help.

Abstract →

Lee, A., Laurent, S., Wykes, T., Andren, K., et al; Genetic attributions and mental illness diagnosis: effects on perceptions of danger, social distance, and real helping decisions. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. September, 2013. DOI: 10.1007/s00127-013-0764-1

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. So, does this explain how and why certain people are told to kill themselves? Because of course, OTHER PEOPLE do NOT want them to exist. And a sensitive person WILL pick up on other people’s unexpressed thoughts and feelings (especially if some people have told them so DIRECTLY). They’ll KNOW that people reject them, do not like them, do not approve of them and don’t want them around (and in some cases, YES – they wish the person would cease to exist).

    Then, if the poor suffering person COMPLAINS that people hate them, wish they were dead, wish they didn’t exist … SOME people will INVALIDATE that and attribute the ACCURATE complaints as being part of the “disease”. Hell torture is what is really is.

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  2. This study doesn’t surprise me and I hope it gets some acknowledgement from the “treatment” community.

    In my introductory psychology course, the text asserts that now that mental illness has come to be seen as biological and largely genetic, that stigma against the afflicted has been reduced. This, of course, is horseshit. It’s on the basis of this “science” that the forced drugging lobby has flourished.

    Perhaps the measuring of stigma ought to be left to the voiceless who suffer its consequences. But, as usual, the people most affected are left out of the conversation. On a forum somewhere, I read “the only people who are against outpatient commitment orders are those without a mentally ill family member.” Again, where is the voice time for that very same family member?

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  3. Many psychology and psychiatry text books are produced with money from large drug companies. It just goes to show how deeply Big Pharma has its tentacles into everything and how it can monopolize all areas. Makes you wonder how well informed the teachers of these courses are who choose these textbooks to teach from. If you and I can find out all this information and misinformation then you would think that professors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists would also be better informed than they seem to be. I think that a lot of it boils down to the fact that they really don’t care about people with issues caused by emotional and psychological distress. As MJK put it, many people wish that we would just up and die or disappear off the face of the earth.

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