"Walking Around Like a Panda Bear": Feelings of Stigma among Nontraditional-Age Students
Norris, Dawn Rebecca
Milkie, Melissa A.
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Conceptions of the creation and maintenance of stigma center on interactions and the role of external feedback. Substantive work on stigmatized groups illustrates that cognitions play a role in stigma development, but does not use a social psychological approach to examine this systematically. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 undergraduates age 25 and older to highlight the role of cognition in stigma maintenance, even in situations in which there is little or no negative feedback. Results show that, even in the absence of negative feedback, reflected appraisals and social comparisons produce three aspects of stigma - a sense of: 1) standing out; 2) exclusion; and 3) others' negative evaluation of them. Results show that social comparisons maintain and moderate stigma. Results highlight the importance of cognition in the maintenance of stigma. Implications for studying stigmatized groups, such as racial minorities and the physically disabled, are discussed.