Mental Illness Misconceptions Among Undergraduates: Prevalence, Correlates, and Instructional Implications

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Although several published studies have examined students’ misconceptions about psychology in general, only 1 study has focused exclusively on misconceptions about mental illness, and that study examined only 5 such misconceptions. To overcome this gap in our knowledge and to devise effective teaching strategies to disabuse college students of false information, an up-to-date survey of current misconceptions and their correlates among students is necessary. In this study, 375 undergraduates enrolled in introductory psychology courses completed an abnormal psychology misconceptions questionnaire, as well as measures assessing critical thinking, attitudes toward science, beliefs in paranormal phenomena, and vocational interests. Results revealed that certain misconceptions about mental illness and its treatment are widely held, and that compared with other students, students who endorse mental illness misconceptions tend to possess weaker critical thinking skills, are more inclined to accept paranormal claims, and are less likely to endorse scientific and behavioral views of psychology. Given the prevalence of abnormal psychology misconceptions among introductory students, we provisionally recommend assessing mental illness misconceptions early in an introductory course and utilizing empirically supported refutational methods to reduce student levels of mental illness misconceptions.


Online ahead of print August 3, 2020.



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