Exploring stereotypes of athletes with a disability: Multiple mediation analyses using the stereotype content model


Both International and National Paralympic Committees have recently begun to focus on quantifying the potential social legacy fostered by societal exposure to Paralympic competition. A key aspect of this desired social legacy includes changing negative stereotypes often held by able-bodied adults towards individuals with disabilities. Using tenets of the Stereotype Content Model (SCM), the present study aimed to assess the stereotypes, emotions, and behaviours associated with Paralympic sport and recreational sport participants depicted as able-bodied or having a physical disability (i.e., Olympians, Paralympians, and recreational athletes with or without a physical disability). Multivariate analyses of survey results from 302 able-bodied adults revealed admiration was the strongest SCM emotion elicited for all sport groups, regardless of ability. While Olympians were rated with significantly higher admiration compared to the other groups (M=4.4/5, SD=0.8, ps0.05). Additionally, active and passive facilitation behaviours were most prominently reported; however, mediation analyses highlighted feelings of admiration significantly contributed to these behaviours moreso than any other SCM emotions. Considering feelings of admiration and positive facilitation behaviours were rated significantly higher than negative SCM feelings and behaviours (e.g., contempt, active harm, etc.), these findings suggest elite and recreational sport participation may mitigate negative societal stereotypes commonly associated with physical disability. The implications of such results address feasibility concerns of Paralympic Committees related to achieving a more positive social legacy stemming from viewing Paralympic competition.

Acknowledgments: The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada