Latest News on Social Distance: April 21

[1] A social distance scale

In constructing this social distance scale, 60 single sentence descriptions heard in ordinary conversations and representing different types of social relationship were rated according to the amount of social distance each possessed. By means of judgments from 100 faculty members and graduate students it was possible to obtain a series of 7 situations with an equidistant mean rating. In administering this test composed of the 7 situations, each subject is given a list of 40 races, 30 occupations, and 30 religions with detailed instructions for rating. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

[2] The Social Distance Theory of Power

We propose that asymmetric dependence between individuals (i.e., power) produces asymmetric social distance, with high-power individuals feeling more distant than low-power individuals. From this insight, we articulate predictions about how power affects (a) social comparison, (b) susceptibility to influence, (c) mental state inference and responsiveness, and (d) emotions. We then explain how high-power individuals’ greater experienced social distance leads them to engage in more abstract mental representation. This mediating process of construal level generates predictions about how power affects (a) goal selection and pursuit, (b) attention to desirability and feasibility concerns, (c) subjective certainty, (d) value-behavior correspondence, (e) self-control, and (f) person perception. We also reassess the approach/inhibition theory of power, noting limitations both in what it can predict and in the evidence directly supporting its proposed mechanisms. Finally, we discuss moderators and methodological recommendations for the study of power from a social distance perspective.

[3] Social distance and its origins

This article discusses social distance, which refers to “the grades and degrees of understanding and intimacy which characterize pre-social and social relations generally.” To test this, two hundred and forty-eight persons, chiefly members of two graduate and upper division classes in social psychology, were asked to classify a list of twenty four racial and language groups into three columns based on their feelings of friendliness towards each group. Participants were also asked to give the races from which both their father and mother were descended. The author of this article discusses the findings from the categorization task in order to find out how and why social distance varies amongst groups. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

[4] Social Distance towards People with HIV-AIDS versus Mental Illness in a Sample of Adolescent Secondary Students in Lagos Nigeria

Introduction: Stigma is a major barrier to help seeking among adolescents with mental disorders. HIV-AIDS is also a highly stigmatised chronic disorder among youths. In contrast with HIV-AIDS, there is scarcity of large scale interventions targeted at reducing mental illness related stigma in Nigeria.

Aim: This study determined the social distance of a sample of secondary school students in Nigeria towards individuals with mental illness, as compared with those with HIV-AIDS.

Methods: Using a cross-sectional study design, adolescent secondary school students (n=170) in Lagos, Nigeria completed the modified Borgadus Social distance Scale by self-report.  Data was analysed with SPSS 16.

Results: About seven out of ten (71.8%) and 20.6% of the participants would be afraid to have a conversation with someone who has mental illness and HIV-AIDS respectively (p<0.001). Participants were also more likely to be upset about being in the same classroom, sharing a bedroom or maintaining friendship with individuals affected by mental illness than HIV-AIDS (p<0.001).

Conclusion: The findings suggest that secondary school students in Nigeria desire a higher level of social distance from individuals with mental illness than those with HIV-AIDS. Interventions targeted at reducing the stigma associated with mental illness among school children require priority attention.

[5] Workplace Social Distance toward Psychiatric Patients among Employers

Employment-related problems of psychiatric patients are attracting attention in the field of mental health and welfare. Employers’ social distance from psychiatric patients negatively influences patients’ chances to work. Therefore, social distance should be carefully measured and evaluated among employers. In this study, we developed the Workplace Social Distance Scale (WSDS), rephrasing the eight items of the Japanese version of the SDS to apply to the work setting in Japan. We examined the reliability and validity of the WSDS among 938 employers. Factor analysis extracted two factors from the scale items: ‘negative factor’ and ‘positive factor.’ Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the WSDS was 0.821. In the scores for the test and the retest, a significant correlation was seen for the scale overall and respective subscales, although the correlation for positive items was somewhat low, at 0.415. In addition, the WSDS was significantly correlated with the Japanese version of the SDS. These findings suggest that the WSDS represents an approximation of social distance in the workplace among employers. Our study assessed the reliability and validity of the newly developed WSDS for measuring social distance among employers in Japan. Future studies should investigate the reliability and validity of the scale in other countries.



[1] Bogardus, E.S., 1933. A social distance scale. Sociology & Social Research.

[2] Magee, J.C. and Smith, P.K., 2013. The social distance theory of power. Personality and social psychology review17(2), pp.158-186.

[3] Bogardus, E.S., 1992. Social distance and its origins. Journal of Applied Sociology.

[4] Adeosun, I.I., Fatiregun, O. and Adeyemo, S., 2017. Social distance towards people with HIV-AIDS versus mental illness in a sample of adolescent secondary students in Lagos Nigeria. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, pp.1-7.

[5] Yoshii, H., 2015. Workplace Social Distance toward Psychiatric Patients among Employers. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, pp.63-69.

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