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Stigmatization: Labels, Marks, and Peril

  • By: Rachel A Smith
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Stigmas are socialized stereotypes about the disgrace, discredited, and devalued nature of a group of people. Stigmas must be communicated in order to be socialized. The communication involved with stigmas has specific aims, which include facilitating people's ability to recognize members of stigmatized groups and motivating their actions to limit stigmatized persons' access to unstigmatized members of the community. To these ends, stigma communication includes attention-getting content that encourages stereotyping and facilitates engagement in stigmatization and discrimination. Three types of content cues that evoke such processes are marks, labels, and peril.

Content about marks relays information about how to identify stigmatized persons. Marks that gain attention and are easy to learn facilitate recognition. Marks that are difficult to conceal and are disgusting achieve these aims: people ...

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