‘Walking through the hospital’, priming tolerance to enhance the approaching behavior between healthy individuals and patients suffering from psychoses

  • Lisa Hubrach
  • Kiki Nap


Research has shown that priming works, but most evidence comes from laboratory situations and may not be applicable to situations in daily life. The present study used priming for the enhancement of the quality of approaching behavior between patients suffering from psychoses and healthy young individuals. Twenty-one healthy undergraduate students (age: 18-25) were recruited. Interpersonal distance was used as an indicator for approaching behavior. Using a virtual reality setting, it was tested whether the participants keep less distance towards psychotic patients after being primed with a sentence scrambling task involving words associated with tolerance. It was hypothesized that priming of tolerance can elicit more empathy towards mentally ill. The data reveal that this method of priming has no measurable influence on approaching behavior in situations in which people encounter mentally diseased suffering from psychoses. Nevertheless, this needs further investigation. Priming for social purposes could be a convenient and supportive way to improve people’s attitude towards mental illnesses. Keywords: social distance; stigma; psychosis; tolerance priming; virtual reality.