How Metaphor and Political Ideology Shape Lay Theories of Mental Disorders
Introduction: Lay theories of mental disorders impact social attitudes, stigma, and treatment seeking. We investigated whether common metaphors in mental health discourse shape lay beliefs about clinical disorders.
Methods: Participants (N = 685) read a paragraph describing drug addiction (Experiment 1) or depression (Experiment 2) as either a demon or brain disease. They then reported their beliefs about and attitudes toward the condition.
Results: Participants exposed to the brain disease frame expressed more support for a “medicalized” lay theory associated with a belief in underlying biological causes. We also found that participants with conservative political views held a more “moralized” view of both addiction and depression. This view is associated with a belief in personal causes, support for informal—as opposed to medical or psychological—treatments, and greater attributions of personal responsibility.
Discussion: These findings help illuminate the factors that shape lay theories of mental disorders and have important implications for health communications.
Flusberg, Stephen J., Michael Dellavalle, and Paul H. Thibodeau. 2023. "How Metaphor and Political Ideology Shape Lay Theories of Mental Disorders." Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 42(4): 293-322.
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Lay theories, Folk psychiatry, Metaphore, Framing, Addiction, Depression, Political ideology