Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Tara Lineweaver

Second Advisor

Joel Martin


I investigated how participants perceived an individual with either depression, schizophrenia, or no disorder on negative and positive traits and then examined how these perceptions linked to desire for social distance (DSD), trait self-relevance, positive former contact with a person with mental health problems, and continuum beliefs. One-hundred-and-fifty undergraduates completed an online survey that described a vignette character with depression (VCWD), vignette character with schizophrenia (VCWS), or control character with no mental disorder (CC) and assessed participants’ perceptions of the character’s traits, DSD from the vignette character, perceptions of one’s own traits, and demographic characteristics. In general, the VCWD was viewed as thoughtful, unpredictable, and apathetic. The VCWS was viewed as interesting but less kind as well as more dangerous, irresponsible, and unpredictable than other characters. DSD correlated with perceived dangerousness, irresponsibility, and unpredictability. Because negative traits are strong predictors of DSD, participants showed more DSD from the VCWS than other characters. Neither positive former contact nor continuum beliefs correlated with DSD. Finally, high trait self-relevance increased the likelihood of perceiving one’s own traits in VCWD but not VCWS, suggesting participants saw less of themselves in someone with schizophrenia than someone with depression. Together, these results suggest that positive and negative perceptions of depression and schizophrenia exist, but people identify less with and are less willing to socialize with someone diagnosed with schizophrenia than depression.