Stereotyping in addiction : an application of the Fishbein-Ajzen theory to heroin using behaviour
A review of the literature on Person Perception, as it relates to addiction, is given. Experiment 1 quantified people's subjective impressions of smokers, heavy drinkers, and heroin users, in terms of an empirically devised framework. The experiment also examined the impact of personal information (i. e a photograph) upon impression formation. It was found that, in the absence of a photogragh, heroin users were perceived as being dangerous. A review of the literature on stereotyping was carried out. Experiment 11 examined the lower limits of stereotyping heroin users as being dangerous. This experiment was conducted within the context of Tajfel's interpersonal-intergroup continuum. The findings were that, minimal personal information coupled with dissimilarities in personal values, resulted in stereotypic perceptions of heroin users whereas, responses to a personalized presentation with similar values, were more differentiated. The implications of stereotype beliefs about heroin users in the area of drug education is discussed. A review of the fear appeal literature is given. Experiment 111 examined the relative effectiveness of a fear appeal and a social appeal in influencing current heroin users' attitudes and intentions with regards to using heroin. This examination was systematically investigated within the context of Fishbein and Ajzen's theory of reasoned action and their model of persuasive communication. It was found that, (i) heroin use is under attitudinal control, (ii) current heroin users hold a health belief structure and a social belief structure associated with the consequences of using heroin, and (iii) both the fear appeal and the social appeal had an effect on attitudes and intentions with regard to heroin use. Experiments IV and V examined the lay public and ex-heroin users' opinions regarding the relative effectiveness of emphasising health factors or social factors in attempts to influence heroin taking decisions. The findings revealed there to be a disagreement between the two groups. The lay public were of the firm opinion that emphasis should be placed an health factors. On the other hand, exheroin users regarded social factors as being more influential. The wider implications of these findings, in terms of drug evaluation studies, are highlighted.