Generalized stigma: Assessment, predictors, and interventions

Chi Kin Donald LEUNG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Stigma affects the lives, health and well-being of a considerable segment of the population. Without an instrument to assess stigma that is applicable to a wide range of stigmatized conditions, it is difficult to target public stigma in community settings. This thesis proposes a psychological construct termed generalized stigma to represent a set of cognitions, affects, and behaviors toward individuals with a socially discredited attribute. Generalized stigma reflects a broad tendency to stigmatize others because a person who holds prejudicial attitudes toward members of one stigmatized group is likely to behave similarly toward members of other stigmatized groups. Three studies were conducted to establish theoretical conceptualizations of generalized stigma and investigate two approaches to counteract it. In Study 1, the Generalized Stigma Scale (GSS) was developed and validated as a new measurement tool. Notably, generalized stigma predicted stigmatizing attitudes toward a range of conditions above and beyond social dominance orientation. In Study 2, the results of mediation tests showed that lovingkindness and compassion were associated with increased concern for all humanity and decreased desire for hierarchy and dominance; in turn, these tendencies were associated with lower levels of generalized stigma and schizophrenia stigma. Furthermore, the experimental results of a single 10-min exercise (Study 3a) and 4-week longitudinal trial (Study 3b) showed that participants who received lovingkindness meditation (LKM) or compassion meditation (CM) training reported more significant decreases in generalized stigma than their counterparts in the active control groups. Together, these findings highlight the importance of generalized stigma in developing an effective stigma reduction intervention and the potential role of LKM and CM in counteracting stigma. Further implications of these findings for combating stigma and future research are discussed. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • CHAN, Ka Shing, Kevin 陳家承, Supervisor
  • POON, Kai Tak 潘啟德, Supervisor
  • CHEUNG, Yuen Man Rebecca, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Stigma
  • Stigma reduction
  • Lovingkindness
  • Compassion
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2020.


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