HIV-related stigma in social interactions: approach and avoidance behaviour in a virtual environment

H.L. Toppenberg, A.E.R. Bos, R.A.C. Ruiter, D.H.J. Wigboldus, J.B. Pryor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

People living with HIV are a stigmatized group in our society, especially homosexual people living with HIV. One of the behavioural manifestations of stigmatization is an increased interpersonal distance kept during social interactions. Immersive virtual environment technology enables the experimental study of social interactions in an accurate and relatively unobtrusive manner. Using a virtual hospital room, we measured to what extent diagnosis (HIV, cancer or broken leg) and sexual orientation (homosexual or heterosexual) were related to approach behaviour (based on the interpersonal distance and the speed of approach), and the degree patients were looked at (as was obtained from an additional exploration of our head orientation data). Moreover, implicit and explicit attitudes were predicted to moderate this relationship. Participants (N=50) were healthy, heterosexual students. A main effect of diagnosis revealed larger interpersonal distances from patients with HIV than from patients with cancer. Also, an interaction effect demonstrated that distances were largest when the HIV patient was homosexual. Furthermore, a main effect of diagnosis showed that HIV and cancer patients were approached more slowly than broken leg patients, an effect that was larger for HIV than for cancer patients. In addition, head orientation analyses revealed that patients with HIV were relatively looked at' more often as well as relatively looked away from' less often than patients with cancer and patients with a broken leg. None of these effects however were found to be moderated by implicit and explicit attitudes. These findings provide behavioural evidence for the stigmatization of people living with HIV and homosexuals with HIV in particular. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015

Keywords

  • AIDS-RELATED STIGMA
  • ATTITUDES
  • GAY MEN
  • HIV/AIDS
  • IMPLICIT ASSOCIATION TEST
  • PEOPLE
  • PERCEIVED STIGMA
  • PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS
  • SEXUAL ORIENTATION
  • SOUTH-AFRICA

Cite this