Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School


First Advisor

Rusty McIntyre, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Natalie Dove, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ann R. Eisenberg, Ph.D.


People with disabilities frequently face the barriers of prejudice, stereotypes, low expectations, and the doubt that they can be adequate romantic partners. This study sought to examine whether the description of a target individual’s proximity to disability would inform the participants’ preference for social closeness or social distance from the target. The target individuals described in the vignettes varied in their proximity to disability in that one target was disabled and did not disclose their identity, the second was likewise disabled and disclosed this, the third was not disabled themself but had a disabled sibling, and the last vignette described an able-bodied individual and without connection to any disabled person. The study included questionnaires that targeted participants’ willingness to socially approach the described vignette or avoid them, through asking the participants’ willingness to engage in activities or behaviors that would establish and maintain a social relationship versus engage in behaviors that would allow the participant to maintain social distance from the vignette. The results suggested that, overall, the vignette that participants were most willing to approach and least likely to avoid was the vignette describing the control: a non-disabled individual without ties to anyone with a disability. Interestingly, the vignette the participants reported the lowest likelihood of approaching and highest rate of avoiding was the undisclosed vignette, which depicted an individual who suggested symptoms of a disability, but did not disclose their diagnosis. As well, we included demographic data on participants’ prior experience with disabled people, which was compiled into a factor we labeled ‘familiarity’, and this factor correlated with statistically significant differences in the approach scores of both the undisclosed and disclosed disability vignettes corresponding with higher familiarity scores.