PACE Psych 406
History of Social
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|READINGS: See syllabus for links to readings on line.
Attributions of CAUSE of Disability & Personal
Fundamental Attribution Error:
Over attribution of personal
Under attribution of
- Using the image: where do we attribute the cause of
of the "issues" of disability?
- Consider the following: Blindness, Mental
- Consider the following: ADHD, Alcoholism, Tourette's,
- With mental, cognitive, and psychiatric disabilities,
the nature of the problem to factors over which the person "should" be
able to take control. The person with ADHD "should" just settle down
focus. The alcoholic "should" just leave the booze alone.
- Assumptions and Attributions flow from such things as:
- Personal Experience
- Traditional Views
- Social Norms
- Problems with this stem from:
- General knowledge lags behind research
- Some people operate under different "sets of
acts differently in the biology of an alcoholic than in a
Much the same as food allergies react differently in different people.
Gilson, S. F. (2004)
Disability. Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.)
- What people do and do not do and how they do what
they do -
What it looks like, "presenting conditions"
- Typical/Atypical: Related to norms and standards.
walking with two legged gait with heel strike first vs. using a cane to
- Observable & Reportable: Observable can be sensed
external observer and objectified, vs. Pain, which is reported as
- Constructs seeking to provide understanding for "Why
- Medical-Diagnostic Explanation: there is something
lacking, missing, faulty about people with disability. (examples:
arthritis, macular degeneration, spinal cord injury)
- Constructed Explanation: the environment is
barriers. Stairs may require activity which causes pain or prevents
- Legitimacy: Judgment
Response (this is the most important definitional element of the
- Judgment refers to value assessments of groups about
they have valid and acceptable explanations for the ways they are,
according to a generally unspoken set of standards or values.
- Response are the actions that are deemed appropriate
rendering the value judgment.
- Legitimacy is today often ascribed along with a
personal control or responsibility:
- DISCUSSION: 3
transplant candidates - who should get the available liver? What if
there were 2, or 3 livers available?
What are the social biases?
- professional athlete who had years of drinking,
- liver damaged as a result of overuse of Ibuprofen
- liver was damaged by a car accident,
How do these reflect archaic, yet perpetually
ways of thinking about people and about disability?
Gilson & DePoy (2004) on Language:
They speak of Atypicality rather than Disability.
What disables a person may be constructed by culture
rather than naturally and necessarily part of the individual (stairs
& round door knobs).
(2004). Rethinking disability: Principles
for professional and social change. Belmont, CA: Thompson.)
Fakers, Wannabees, and Coat-tail Riders.
From Make Them
"it seems reasonable to most
of us to
openly feel sorry for disabled people. Only truly disabled people are
allowed by public policy to not work..." "Such sentiments,
though, are only extended to the truly
disabled. Only a tiny portion of those who called themselves 'disabled'
are considered to be truly disabled -- they are the ones who are 'all
messed up'; who 'can't help it.' They're the only ones who are even
grudgingly considered to have a possible claim on the public largesse."
"Only 'the deaf, the blind and the wheelchair bound'
make up the truly disabled in the minds of those against disability
rights. All others laying claim to the 'disabled' label are, in the
final analysis, fakers." (pg. 29)
"When one says that 'no one is against the
handicapped,' what that really means is that no one is against the
'truly handicapped'." (pg. 46)
(Make Them Go Away: Clint
Eastwood, Christopher Reeve & the Case Against Disability Rights.
by Mary Johnson. 2003)
Cause and "Responsibility" -
in a Cultural Context
traditional societies the causes of any illness are usually believed to
lie outside the control of the patient. Illness is often ascribed to
angered spirits, black magic worked by envious people against the
patient, or simply fate. This type of explanation absolves the patient
from any responsibility for falling ill. In contrast, in the West
patients are increasingly held responsible for the illnesses. Patients
with heart or lung disease are told they have brought it on themselves
by choosing an unhealthy lifestyle. Mentally ill people are exhorted to
'pull yourself together'. Relatives become critical when they think the
patients are in control of their actions and could behave properly if
they really wanted to."
Leff, Julian (2001) The
Unbalanced Mind. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 120
Discussion - Legitimate or Person's Own Fault
- Slip on winter ice, resulting head injury.
- Riding with driver who has had 3 drinks - crash results
permanent mobility disability.
- Blind as a result of not properly monitoring diabetes.
- Mother's poor pre-natal care leads to intellectual
- Mother's alcoholism leads to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- Nerve damage as a result of elective cosmetic
- Hearing loss from listening to loud music for years.
Dominant Social Attitudes toward Disability
NOTE: While there is some measure of chronological sequence here, each
attitude is present today, and there is overlap for each.
by evil spirits.
- Demons have entered the body of the afflicted.
- Possession may or may not be due to the person's
condition (weakness or virtue)
- Person may be evil and have essentially invited the
through devil worship.
- Treatment often consists of killing the person to
soul from the demon, or "Stomping" which involved making the body so
wracked with pain that the demon would leave.
- Historically, several Witch Crazes have targetted
were atypical and resulted in purging them from the community.
- Menace: Disability
threat to society.
- Disability is God’s curse for parental sins,
sins of the
- Disabled people are unpredictable, retarded or
- Through promiscuity, they will spread their
- They don’t understand or conform to societal
- How can we have a “polite” or “civilized”
- Our children need to be protected from those
give in to
their sexual impulses.
- Object of Dread: Lepers, Monsters,
- Drawing upon the "Just World Hypothesis" as a way of
the randomness of disability, this approach creates a sense of justice
in that it is "the person's own fault." Therefore God is still fair
& loving & good, the world is safe and predictable, and we can
persist in our delusions of acceptability.
- Subhuman: Animal or
- Not capable of living up to the expectations of
- Lost their essential human qualities.
- Overlooked by God.
- Object of Ridicule:
- Village Idiot
- Circus side show / freak show
- Object of Pity or
- Middle Ages: Catholic Church was in power. Depending
particular town, there might be Charity or Persecution.
- With the poverty, poor nutrition, disease, &
sanitation, it was pretty common to see disability.
- With the death rate of children, it was uncommon to
people with congenital anomalies live very long.
- Elephant Man - taken in by the Charitable to “rescue”
cruelty of the Freak-show Circus tent.
- Jerry’s Kids.
- Never to be accepted as equals, but as opportunities
to be virtuous by helping "those less fortunate."
- In Middle Ages, people needed objects of charity so
could absolve their sins by being charitable. No "less fortunate," then
no opportunity to buy off our salvation.
- Holy Innocent: Child of
Eternal Child of God.
- Blessed, special, God’s Favorites or God’s special
- Eternal Child (& incompetent):
- “25, but with the mind of a 6 year old.”
- Asexual - sex is for adult, "special" people are
- Jerry’s “Kids”
- Expectations to remain dependent.
- Capitalism brings the need for the populace to be
members of society."
- Productivity increasingly comes to mean working for
factories & offices.
- Assembly Lines and Efficiency Experts increasingly
statistically normal, average, typical, as the ideal.
- Poorhouses of Victorian and Early 20th Century eras
are for the
unproductive, who are ostracized for their unproductivity whether due
to disability, illness, old age, etc. Poorhouses are made to be
places on purpose, as they house those who are less moral and therefore
responsible for their position in life. Horrible conditions also
encourage families to continue to care for dependent members, in order
to keep them off the public dole.
- Scrooge quote, "Then let them get on with it (dying)
decrease the surplus population!"
- Today, the "Unproductive" are either legitimized by
wealth, or more commonly, illegitimized through living off "Government
Entitlement Programs" and "Welfare."
- Crazy or Eccentric?
- Across all of history, those with the ability to
were in upper socioeconomic eschelons were treated differently
- "The Madness of King George III" atypical,
hallucinatory, demented behavior. Treated & returned to the throne.
- Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Mingus (jazz
Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Michael Jackson - the often bizarre
atypicality is expected, almost demanded by the public and the fans. (Kottler,
Ten Stories of Creative Struggle. Jossey/Bass)
- Fragile, frail, needing medical
- Dilemma of being “treated” but never “cured” -
- Emphasis on "Cure" - make "them" more like "us".
- Nuveen Investments ad from Superbowl 2000:
- Citizen &
- Human Rights apply here too.
- Deserving of what You or I want out of life.
- Contributor & Consumer
- Responsible for one’s actions.
How are disabilities presented?
Are disabilities used as a sort of shorthand to
Archetypes - what do we know or can we assume about
a character based on representation of disability?
Quote, "To be
disabled meant to fight someone else's reality. Other
people's attitudes, not one's own disability, were the biggest
What is meant by this?
How does it manifest in the life of those with DD?
How does it manifest in your own life as the holder and/or object of
"other people's realities"?
Why should it matter what a
people is called: "Association of Retarded Citizens" or
the organization "The ARC"?
Why throw out the familiar, useful, descriptive
Won't any new term come to be seen as loaded or derogatory?
|Last Modified April 2, 2010