Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Adam Pazda

Second Advisor

Jane Stafford

Third Advisor

Maureen Carrigan


Objective: Previous literature examines dehumanization of marginalized groups; though, most of this work focuses on ethnic and racial groups. Currently, there is a gap in the literature examining the extent to which people with mental illness are dehumanized. This study examined whether people with schizophrenia are dehumanized (relative to other marginalized groups, such as drug addicts). Furthermore, this research will investigate if using “person-first” language can attenuate dehumanization.

Method: Participants (n = 310) were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete a measure of dehumanization and demeaning needs for each of the nine targets (i.e., self, close friend, lawyer, elderly, child, homeless, drug addict, chimpanzee, schizophrenia). Each measure was slightly altered to incorporate person-first and noun-based labels for each target and were randomly assigned between participants.

Results: Contrary to prediction, there were no significant effects for the use of person-first language on dehumanization. However, hypotheses 1 and 2 were partially supported through a significant interaction was between dehumanization type and target, as well as need level and target. Specifically, individuals with schizophrenia were viewed as more animalistic and mechanistic than oneself and a close friend. Further, participants perceived middle- and high-level needs for people with schizophrenia as less important than those for themselves and a close friend.

Conclusion: This study provided valuable information on the extent to which individuals with schizophrenia are dehumanized as well as the perceived psychological need importance for this population. Further, this study provided contradictory evidence to the notion of the use of person-first language combatting stigma in that there was no significant interaction between language type and dehumanization. These results have significant implications regarding how the public views these individuals based on examinations from previous literature on the consequences of dehumanization of racial groups. Thus, this study sheds light on how more research should be conducted on the effects of dehumanization on mental illness and interventions to combat such dehumanization other than language changes.