Public Attitudes Toward People With Intellectual Disabilities After Viewing Olympic or Paralympic Performance

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
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  • 1 Canterbury Christ Church University
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Despite some changes to the way that people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are viewed in society, negative attitudes prevail. One of the aspirations of the 2012 Paralympic games was to influence the public’s attitudes toward people with disabilities. The aim of this study was to investigate whether stimuli depicting people with ID performing at Paralympic level of competition change attitudes toward ID. A mixed randomized comparison design was employed comparing 2 groups: those who viewed Paralympic-level ID sport footage and information and those who viewed Olympic footage and information. One hundred fourteen students, mean age 25 yr, were administered measures of implicit (subconscious) attitudes toward disability and explicit (belief-based) attitudes toward ID. Implicit attitudes significantly changed in a positive direction for both groups. The findings provide evidence that both Paralympic (ID) and Olympic media coverage may have at least a short-term effect on attitudes toward people with disabilities.

Ferrara is with the Salomons Centre of Applied Psychology; Burns, the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology; and Mills, the School of Human and Life Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK.

Address author correspondence to Jan Burns at
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