Stigma refers to a characteristic or attribute that is associated with negative generalized inferences about the bearer. Psychological research on stigma often has focused on race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, obesity, and disability. However, there is no definitive list of what does or does not constitute a stigma, only the idea that stigma involves a characteristic that is devalued across most social contexts. In addition, the characteristics that mark individuals' identities as undesirable vary across time and place.

The term stigma can be traced back to the Greeks, who cut or burned individuals' bodies to “brand” them as traitors, criminals, or other social misfits. In the classic Greek sense, stigmas referred to actual physical marks inscribed on the bodies of devalued members of society as ...

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