Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Research Articles

Community attitudes toward individuals with traumatic brain injury

T. McLELLANa1, A. BISHOPa1 and A. McKINLAYa1 c1

a1 Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand


Explicit and implicit attitudes toward people who have sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) were investigated to determine if negative attitudes exist and if the terminology used (brain vs. head injury) exacerbated predicted negativity. Participants (n = 103) rated Tony (brain/head injury) and Peter (limb-injury) on 10 characteristics using a 7-point scale. Familiarity with brain injury was also measured. Implicit Association Tests (IAT) assessed potential negative bias. Tony (M = 36.84) was judged more negatively than Peter (M = 31.69). The term “brain” versus “head” injury resulted in more negative evaluations (Ms = 38.72 vs. 34.78). Participants familiar with TBI were more positive toward Tony than those unfamiliar (Ms = 34.98 vs. 39.80). Only those unfamiliar with TBI demonstrated implicit negative bias. Negative attitudes toward TBI are expressed explicitly with individuals openly endorsing less desirable characteristics. When people have more knowledge about or experience with brain injury, they are less likely to endorse negative stereotypes. (JINS, 2010, 16, 705–710.)

(Received January 11 2010)

(Reviewed April 16 2010)

(Accepted April 16 2010)


c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Audrey McKinlay, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand. E-mail: