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Do Biological Beliefs about Schizophrenia Directly Correlate to Social Distances between the General Public and the Individuals with the Disorder?

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The disorder Schizophrenia has been questioned for its origin amongst the approaches in Psychology since its discovery. Whether the disorder originates from biological roots, behaviourism roots or cognitive roots has been yet to be determined. As a report from Nature suggests, Schizophrenia is a highly inheritable disorder, with results from over 36,000 cases showing a high significance between genetics and schizophrenia. This report will investigate social attitudes to the disorder in relation to each different approach. All participants completed a questionnaire that measured whether biological beliefs made it more like for the individual to try and distance themselves from someone with the disorder. The results show that on average, there is a greater social distance if the individual believes that schizophrenia is because of an environmental background, they are more likely to have negative attitudes towards it compared to a biological background. This shows how because if the consensus is that schizophrenia can be obtained in the environment, then people are more likely to distance themselves due to a fear of them obtaining it themselves.


As summarised by Maj and Sartorius (2003), schizophrenia is a mental disorder which affects about 1% of the global population. The main symptoms of the disorder are categorised as positive symptoms and negative symptoms. The positive symptoms are where you gain the problems. An example of these are hallucinations and delusions. The negative symptoms of schizophrenia involve speech poverty. As stated by the Childhood-onset Schizophrenia (1997), whist it is believed that Schizophrenia does run in families, there is quite weak evidence in itself for a genetic link because family members tend to share aspects of their environment as well as many of their genes. As stated by (Flanagan, Griffin, Haycock, Liddle & Mohamedbhai, n.d.) the biological approach suggests that dopamine is heavily involved. For example, an excess in dopamine receptors in broca’s area is associated with poverty of speech and/or the experience of auditory hallucinations. However, all research into Schizophrenia has been into what causes it, and not what the beliefs about the causes may result in people distancing them self. That is the reason for this research being conducted so that it can be seen which approach causes people to distance themselves further. The hypothesis for the research is ‘There will be a significant difference in the mean social distance between biological beliefs and environmental beliefs’



The participants were selected via a volunteer sample in which an online questionnaire was sent out to all possible participants. Possible participants were notified around the university campus about the questionnaire. There were two-hundred and twenty participants in the study. The gender breakdown in the study was one hundred and sixty females and sixty males. All of the participants were university students and so aged between 18-23. None of the participants dropped out and so there were no missing values.

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This experiment was an correlational study as it used a questionnaire to find which beliefs caused which social attitudes. The independent variable in the study was the approach the individual believed was the cause of schizophrenia, and the dependent variable was the social attitude to schizophrenia.


A questionnaire was used to collect the results. There were 18 items in the questionnaire. The first two determined age and gender. The next 16 determined the social attitudes to people with schizophrenia, and how the participant perceived the cause of the disorder to be. Examples of the questions in the questionnaire are: How would you feel about working with someone with Schizophrenia, how would you feel about your child marrying someone with Schizophrenia and whether a broken home is likely to cause Schizophrenia. The participants were expected to respond via a likert scale, which ranged between strongly agree and strongly disagree. A problem with the Likert Scale is uni-dimensional and only gives 5-7 options of choice, and the space between each choice cannot possibly be equidistant. Therefore, it fails to measure the true attitudes of respondents LaMarca, N. (2018).


The findings show that both the biological approach and the behaviourist approach had positive correlations with the mean social distance with participants. This shows that when participants believed Schizophrenia was either due to genetics or the environment, they were still likely to create a greater social distance. This shows that when people believe that the causes of schizophrenia was down to upbringing, they are more likely to distance themselves. Both have mildly strong correlations, but the environmental social distance has a stronger correlation. Chi squared was used to test the significance of the results. The results were found to be 96.9% significant, which means that the results are significant. As both sets of results were similar, I must reject my null hypothesis and accept my alternate hypothesis that there was not a significant difference. There are problems with this research however. The main problems are that a questionnaire was used. The main criticisms of using a questionnaire with a likert scale is that they lack detail. The only way to get a response is by giving a statement a number or statement which represents your view. As the responses are fixed, there is less scope for participants to respond in and so rarely reflect someone’s true feelings about a particular topic. Therefore, there is potential for the results to lack validity. In conclusion, both views in the biological approach and behaviourist approach result in a greater social distance, however people who believe that Schizophrenia is due to upbringing results in slightly more negative attitudes.


  1. Biological insights from 108 schizophrenia-associated genetic loci. (2014). Nature, 511(7510), pp.421-427.
  2. Childhood-onset schizophrenia: biological markers in relation to clinical characteristics. (1997). American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(1), pp.64-68.
  3. Flanagan, C., Griffin, M., Haycock, J., Liddle, R., & Mohamedbhai, A. AQA psychology (p. 204).
  4. LaMarca, N. (2018). The Likert Scale: Advantages and Disadvantages. Retrieved from
  5. Maj, M. and Sartorius, N. (2003). Schizophrenia. Chichester: Wiley.
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Do Biological Beliefs about Schizophrenia Directly Correlate to Social Distances between the General Public and the Individuals with the Disorder? (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Do Biological Beliefs about Schizophrenia Directly Correlate to Social Distances between the General Public and the Individuals with the Disorder?” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Do Biological Beliefs about Schizophrenia Directly Correlate to Social Distances between the General Public and the Individuals with the Disorder? [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
Do Biological Beliefs about Schizophrenia Directly Correlate to Social Distances between the General Public and the Individuals with the Disorder? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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