Elite Repudiation of the R-Word and Public Opinion About Intellectual Disability Academic Article uri icon


  • Part of the motivation for encouraging elite stakeholders—like governments, professionals, and advocacy groups—to replace the language of "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" (ID) is the belief that elite endorsement could undermine negative attitudes and influence the public to follow suit. We examine the veracity of this expectation empirically with an experiment that exposed individuals to information about endorsements of the terminology change made by the federal government, Special Olympics, or professional psychologists. We subsequently measured attitudes about persons with ID and the language used to describe ID. Results indicate that exposure to information about elite endorsement of the terminological shift either exacerbated negative attitudes or had no effect, suggesting that other factors may have primacy over "expert" opinion.

publication date

  • 2015