Psychological disorder diagnosis is no cure for trait inferences bias

Sofia Jacinto*, João Niza Braga, Marina Silva Ferreira, Elizabeth C. Collins, Anne C. Krendl, Cara C. Lewis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, maladaptive behavior stemming from a psychological disorder should not be attributed to personality. Attribution of behavioral symptoms to personality may undermine treatment-seeking and therapy outcomes and increase the stigmatization of the mentally ill. Although people adjust dispositional inferences given contextual alternative causes, we propose that beliefs in the stability and controllability of mental illness could lead to confounded representations of personality and psychological disorders. In six studies we tested whether people adjust dispositional inferences given a psychological disorder as they do give a physical impairment. Participants made trait ratings from short behavioral descriptions and corresponding contextual accounts. When the putative cause for the behavior was a psychological disorder, people did not reduce the trait inference to the extent they did when the cause was a physical impairment, except when the psychological disorder was presented as controllable/unstable. This suggests a conflation of psychological disorders with personality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1072
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Psychological disorder diagnosis is no cure for trait inferences bias'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this