Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Sterling Watson, Psy.D

First Reader

Claire Miller-Sword, MSW, MPH

Second Reader

Claire Miller-Sword, MSW, MPH


This paper examines the effects of labeling theory in regard to mental health diagnoses. Specifically, it examines how the self-fulfilling prophecy plays a role after an individual is assigned a label. To view labels and their effects in action, this paper looks to the television show Survivor, specifically Season 37 and uses a television content analysis. Survivor provides an analogy for today’s society and a culturally relevant representation of how individuals are internalizing labels and stereotyping others based on their label. An analysis of season 37 revealed that contestants strongly associated with their assigned label and the specific characteristics that were assigned to their label by the show’s host. Furthermore, the positive or negative connotations in a label’s description were exaggerated by participants if they were describing a person of a different group (the opposite label). Currently, there is a high prevalence of overdiagnosis and self-diagnosis occurring in the mental health field. The study of Survivor: David vs Goliath revealed that a label affects how an individual views themselves and others, especially when it comes to interpreting actions in a positive or negative light. This implicates that both overdiagnosis and self-diagnosis can be dangerous to an individual because they place an unnecessary label on them on the subconscious level.

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© 2023, Alexandra X Cortez