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A multimodal approach to understanding concealable stigma disclosure across social contexts

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:57 authored by Hannah Douglas
Disclosing a concealable stigmatized identity (CSI)-such as a mental health disorder or sexual assault-is a complex process whereby the risk of discrimination is weighed against the burden of concealing. However, little is known how individuals communicate stigma across behavioural modalities, such as language and nonverbal movement dynamics, and situational contexts. This thesis connects four manuscripts that examine the information provided during disclosure. Chapters 2 and 3 drew from one study in which participants simulated a CSI disclosure to close other and professional other confidants, and were primed with approach-avoidance motivation. In chapter 2, a thematic analysis of transcribed disclosures revealed that participants not only shared CSI related information, but also identified their reasons for disclosure/concealment, anticipated response of the confidant, and post-disclosure goals for the relationship. Results also suggested that participants were more likely to disclose to a professional other in order to shift the relationship from professional to more intimate while participants disclosed to close others in order to mend the existing relationship. Chapter 3 extended this work by examining the ways in which disclosure motivation and context are reflected in unintentional behavioural dynamics. Results demonstrated that the movement dynamics of participants who were motivated by approach goals exhibited more complex and flexible behaviour compared to those motivated by avoidance goals. In addition, there was more recurrent word use towards close others compared to professional others. Chapter 4 is a response to the previously described work as it investigated the impact of concealable stigma disclosure on interpersonal coordination and affiliation. Participants who viewed a confederate's bisexual disclosure (compared to depression and neutral disclosures) exhibited less turn taking in a collision avoidance walking task. In study two of this chapter, affiliation increased following coordinated action, however, this was not correlated with degree of synchrony. Finally, Chapter 5 scaled up to the systemic level by examining a corpus of 20,397 tweets from the online movement, #WhyiDidntReport which emerged to highlight the varied reasons for concealing a sexual violence experience. Content analysis of a sample of 500 tweets containing that tag identified five overarching barriers to disclosure including: Intrinsic reasons for nondisclosure (e.g., shame), fear of disclosure outcomes, negative disclosure history, systemic barriers (e.g., perpetrator held a position of power), and information regarding the experience itself (e.g., age of victimization). Natural language processing results found that sentiment relating to power was most represented. Furthermore, network analysis of tweet sentiment revealed the underlying motivation in participation in online activism including relief and physical well-being. As a whole, this work described the ways in which individuals with a CSI share their identities and the interpersonal coordination following a disclosure event-both aspects of the disclosure process relatively understudied. The results across the body of this thesis provide crucial information regarding the strategies used to share a CSI in different contexts, and the individual and systemic level barriers to disclosure of sexual violence. Ethical considerations of these methodologies and practical implications are discussed within each chapter and in the final chapter of this thesis.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Full disclosure: towards a holistic understanding of disclosure of a concealable stigmatized identity in close and professional relationships -- Chapter 3. Embodiment of concealable stigma disclosure through dynamics of movement and language -- Chapter 4. Concealable stigmatized identity disclosure as a possible perturbation to complex social systems -- Chapter 5. Disclosing beyond the dyad: barriers to reporting sexual violence using content and language network analysis of #WhyIDidntReport tweets -- Chapter 6. Discussion, limitations, and conclusion -- Appendices.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Rachel W. Kallen


Copyright Hannah Douglas 2020. Copyright disclaimer:




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