Attributed shame and negative attitudes towards STI-testers: a threat management perspective
AbstractBackground: Perceived shame and stigma, involving individuals’ fears of being labelled with negative attributes, are proposed barriers limiting STI-testing uptake. But does negative labeling of STI-testers actually occur? And what motivates them? Evolutionary psychologists (functionally) characterize social life as a ‘double-edged blade’ - involving affordances and threats. We hypothesized two motivations underlying potential negativity towards testers: 1) motivations to avoid promiscuous individuals, and 2) a disease-avoidance motivation. Design: Using an online vignette method (negative attitudes and attributed shame as outcomes), two studies were conducted (n= 245 and n=793). Study 1 examined whether perceptions of ‘infectiousness’ and ‘promiscuity’ depended on testing behavior (tested vs. untested). Study 2 followed-up and manipulated vignette description on infectiousness (risky vs. safe sex), promiscuity (low vs. high), and testing behavior (tested vs. untested). Results: Strong correlations (r’s in the .36 to .54 range) between study variables were observed in Study 1, and testing led to a reduction in these outcomes (ω2=.05). In Study 2, substantially ‘large’ effects were observed for the infectiousness (ω2 = .23), promiscuity (ω2 = .066), and testing manipulations (ω2 = .06). The effect of infectiousness on the outcomes was moderated by testing condition (ω2 = .01). Discussion: Despite perceived stigma and shame forming a barrier limiting testing uptake, we found no evidence of negative labeling of testers. STI-testing may in fact decrease negative labels associated with risky and promiscuous sexual behavior. Therefore, fears of being labeled negatively when testing for STI may be ‘unrealistically pessimistic’.
Copyright (c) 2017 S. Gruijters, J. Tybur, R. Ruiter, K. Massar
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