Understanding the psychology of stigmas

based on reviews by Charlotte Pennington and Joanne Rathbone
A recommendation of:

Revisiting stigma attributions and reactions to stigma: Replication and extensions of Weiner et al. (1988)

Submitted: 15 February 2022, Recommended: 20 June 2022


Stigmas are prejudices or discrimination against people based on qualities that vary from the norm, such as a physical or mental illness, disability, sexuality, race, or one of many other personal characteristics. The harm caused by stigmatisation has made understanding the causes and potential solutions a vital area of study in psychology and public health. One of the major focuses of ongoing research is understanding the factors that determine whether a particular characteristic becomes stigmatised, and if so how the stigma might be eliminated. Previous research has found that for disease-based stigmas, the contagiousness, course, and disruptiveness of a disease can be influential. Another key determinant is the perceived cause of the stigmatised condition or characteristic. In a landmark study, Weiner et al. (1988) reported that attributes based on physical health were more likely to be perceived as being uncontrollable, stable and irreversible, prompting feelings of sympathy without anger or judgment. On the other hand, attributes related to mental health and behaviour were more likely to be regarded as controllable and reversible, prompting lack of sympathy coupled with feelings of anger and negative judgement. In a second experiment, they also found that manipulating the perception of controllability can modify emotional responses and judgments – for some stigmas (but not others), providing participants with information that a particular characteristic was controllable vs. uncontrollable was found to increase or decrease negative attributions, respectively.
In the current study, Yeung and Feldman (2022) propose to replicate Experiment 2 from Weiner et al. (1988) in a large online sample. In particular, they plan to ask how the source of a stigma is related to perceived controllability and stability, emotional reactions, and willingness to help. They also propose a range of extensions, including the inclusion of additional stigmas that have become relevant since the original study was published over 30 years ago.
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over two rounds of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and therefore awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol:
Level of bias control achieved: Level 6. No part of the data or evidence that will be used to answer the research question yet exists and no part will be generated until after IPA. 
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
1. Weiner, B., Perry, R. P., & Magnusson, J. (1988). An attributional analysis of reactions to stigmas. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 738–748.
2. Yeung, K. Y. & Feldman, G. (2022). Revisiting stigma attributions and reactions to stigma: Replication and extensions of Weiner et al. (1988), in principle acceptance of Version 2 by Peer Community in Registered Reports.
Cite this recommendation as:
Chris Chambers (2022) Understanding the psychology of stigmas. Peer Community in Registered Reports, .

Reviewed by , 15 Jun 2022

The authors have done an excellent job at addressing reviewer comments and amending issues identified with the methodology. I have no further comments at this stage. 

Evaluation round #1

DOI or URL of the report:

Author's Reply, 17 Jun 2022

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Revised manuscript:

All revised materials uploaded to:, updated manuscript under sub-directory "PCIRR Stage 1\PCI-RR submission following R&R"

Decision by , 04 Apr 2022

Two reviewers have now provided rapid and helpful assessments the Stage 1 manuscript. As you will see, both evaluations are generally positive, noting the value of the replication (and extension), as well as the adherence to rigorous open practices. The reviews do, however, note a range of areas requiring careful revision, including strengthening of the study rationale, clarification (and likely correction) of a range of specific methodological details, tightening the link between the critical design elements, ensuring that the analysis plans are statistically valid, and ensuring that the study itself avoids stigmatising language. All of these issues fall within the typical expectations for a Stage 1 RR, and on this basis I am happy to invite a revision.

Reviewed by , 04 Apr 2022

Reviewed by , 31 Mar 2022

Please see attached review,

Best wishes,


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