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Ableism and Modern Disability Attitudes: Book Chapter

By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research

How disability attitudes operate have shifted over time, becoming more and more subtle, and, thus, more difficult to recognize. The aim of this entry is to describe modern disability attitudes. First, using a social psychology approach, this entry explains how modern explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) disability attitudes operate, with negative explicit disability attitudes becoming less common, while negative implicit disability attitudes remain widespread. In fact, this misalignment between people’s explicit and implicit disability attitudes provides critical information about what people feel and how they go on to behave. For these reasons, this entry outlines the two-dimensional model of disability prejudice, which helps map the ways explicit and implicit attitudes interact by organizing prejudice types into four categories: symbolic ableism, principled conservatives, aversive ableism, and truly low prejudiced. Next, the entry covers ways implicit disability attitudes can harm disabled people. Implicit attitudes influence individual behavior, which can have significant implications for interactions between people, including, for example, related to health care. When aggregated, implicit attitudes also highlight systemic discrimination and the bidirectional relationship between systems and attitudes, which are each shaped by the other. Finally, the entry concludes by interrogating implicit interventions, with limited evidence for effective implicit interventions, especially related to disability. Negative implicit disability attitudes are pervasive and insidious, and impact disabled people immensely.

This abstract is a summary of the following book chapter: Friedman, C. (2024). Ableism and modern disability attitudes. In G. Bennett & E. Goodall (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Disability. Palgrave Macmillan.