Gender diverse individuals experience higher rates of HIV and are blamed for their diagnoses to a greater extent than cisgender individuals. Proponents of Attribution Theory posit that victim blaming can be explained by understanding how people attribute causes to others’ misfortunes (i.e., one’s HIV diagnosis), whereby victims whose behavior is perceived as internal, controllable, and stable are blamed to a greater extent than victims whose behavior is perceived as external, uncontrollable, and unstable. Furthermore, perspective-taking is a technique used to reduce blame by altering one’s causal attributions. Despite the links between causal attributions and perceptive taking, no study has applied these constructs to understand and reduce blame placed on gender diverse individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV. Thus, the current study examined the extent to which hypothetical gender diverse individuals were blamed for their HIV diagnosis to a greater extent than cisgender individuals, whether causal attributions explained this difference, and if perspective taking reduced blame. U.S. adults (N = 513) were randomly assigned to read one of nine vignettes, depicting an individual diagnosed with HIV, in which the gender identity of the target (transgender, cisgender man, cisgender woman) and the perspective-taking instructions (perspective taking, stay objective, and no instructions) were manipulated. Participants then completed scales assessing casual attributions (locus of causality, controllability, and stability) and blame (using three sub-measures: malice, unreliability, and recklessness). The results revealed that the gender diverse target was perceived to be more reckless than the cisgender targets and that locus of causality attributions partially explained these perceptions. In addition, the perspective-taking manipulation failed to significantly reduce blame placed on gender diverse individuals. The results from this research have important implications for educators and practitioners working to reduce blame associated with HIV diagnoses and stigma placed on gender diverse individuals.
A Plan B Project submitted to the faculty of the University of Minnesota Duluth by Emma Deihl in partial fullfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts, March 2020. Advisor: Ashley Thompson.
Deihl, Emma C.
The Blame Game: Assessing Blame Placed on Gender Diverse Victims of HIV and the Impact of Perspective Taking.
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