Article Details

Research Database: Article Details

Citation:  Bishop, M., Stenhoff, D., Bradley, K., Allen, C. (2007). The differential effect of epilepsy labels on employer perceptions: Report of a pilot study. Epilepsy & Behavior, 11 351-356.
Title:  The differential effect of epilepsy labels on employer perceptions: Report of a pilot study
Authors:  Bishop, M., Stenhoff, D., Bradley, K., Allen, C.
Year:  2007
Journal/Publication:  Epilepsy & Behavior
Publisher:  Elseveir
Full text:   
Peer-reviewed?  Yes
NIDILRR-funded?  No
Research design:  Mixed methods

Structured abstract:

Background:  The smallest difference in terminology can sometimes mean the biggest change in attitudes and perceptions. This change is frequently evident in the employment selection process. The stigmas faced by individuals with epilepsy are well documented and have resulted in lower employment rates than the general population. The actual term epilepsy has been the source of much of this stigma. This begs the question as to whether the use of different terminology for epilepsy would result in a more positive attitude around it.
Purpose:  This study explored the questions of 1. Does the use of different labels for epilepsy affect the likelihood that a person would be hired? And 2. Do employers and HR professionals think that applicants should disclose their disability in a cover letter?
Setting:  The researchers randomly selected employers and HR professionals from the state of Kentucky to participate in the study.
Study sample:  The sample consisted of 93 randomly selected employers and HR professionals in Kentucky. The sample represented a variety of types and sizes of businesses.
Intervention:  The first research question was addressed with two methods. The first method involved providing the sample with a job title (assembly worker at automotive company) and a list of 10 chronic conditions or disabilities and asking the participant to rank the likelihood that someone with that condition would be hired. Epilepsy terminology was varied on the lists with participants receiving only one of “epilepsy”, “seizure condition”, or “seizure disorder”. The second method involved a sampling of the participants receiving two cover letters from fictional applicants for a customer service position. The cover letters were equal in quality with the only difference being a condition labeled as either “epilepsy” or “seizure condition”. The second research question was addressed by asking participants if they though applicants should disclose having a disability in a cover letter.
Control or comparison condition:  The use of conditions other than epilepsy in the first method of the first research question served as a control.
Data collection and analysis:  Rasch analyses were used to analyze the data.
Findings:  Epilepsy was more positively perceived than the other labels that were used for it. Nearly all participants stated that an applicant should not disclose a disability on a cover letter.
Conclusions:  It is possible that epilepsy generated more of a positive response than the other terminology due to the uncertainty and stigma involving the use of “condition” and “disorder”. The fact that nearly all participants said an applicant shouldn't disclose a disability in a cover letter suggests that no matter what it is called any kind of disability has a stigma attached to it.