Gender, personality traits and experience with psychiatric patients as predictors of stigma in Italian psychology students

Leonardo Zaninotto*, Jia Qian, Yao Sun, Giulia Bassi, Marco Solmi, Silvia Salcuni

*Corresponding author for this work

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A sample of undergraduate Psychology students (n = 1005), prevalently females (82.4%), mean age 20.5 (sd 2.5), was examined regarding their attitudes toward people suffering from mental illness. The survey instrument included a brief form for demographic variables, the Attribution Questionnaire-9 (AQ-9), the Ten Items Personality Inventory (TIPI), and two questions exploring attitudes toward open-door and restraint-free policies in Psychiatry. Higher levels of stigmatizing attitudes were found in males (Pity, Blame, Help, and Avoidance) and in those (76.5%) who had never had any experience with psychiatric patients (Danger, Fear, Blame, Segregation, Help, Avoidance and Coercion). A similar trend was also found in those who don't share the policy of no seclusion/restraint, while subjects who are favorable to open-door policies reported higher Coercion scores. No correlations were found between dimensions of stigma and personality traits. A machine learning approach was then used to explore the role of demographic, academic and personality variables as predictors of stigmatizing attitudes. Agreeableness and Extraversion emerged as the most relevant predictors for blaming attitudes, while Emotional Stability and Openness appeared to be the most effective contributors to Anger. Our results confirmed that a training experience in Psychiatry might successfully reduce stigma in Psychology students. Further research, with increased generalizability of samples and more reliable instruments, should address the role of personality traits and gender on attitudes toward people suffering from mental illness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number362
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2018


  • Machine learning
  • Personality
  • Psychology
  • Stigma
  • Student

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