Having an assistance dog might alter perception of disability


Coleman, J., Ingram, K., Bays, A., Joy-Gaba, J., & Boone, E. (2015). Disability and Assistance Dog Implicit Association Test: A novel IAT. Rehabilitation Psychology, 60 (1), 17-26.


The problem of stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities seems to cut across the work that each of us does. In addition, the impediments that can limit social interaction also impact a large number of people with disability. In this study, a novel version of the implicit attitudes test was created to test the hypothesis that having an assistance dog might alter people's perceptions of someone with a disability. The authors report that there was an increase in positive implicit attitudes towards someone with a disability when paired with a dog and suggest that this might have a positive impact on social interactions. This suggests that there may be social benefits to having an assistance dog, and when it is appropriate and desired to have a dog, this can lead to enhanced mental and physical health.

I picked this article because it appeared in our own journal Rehabilitation Psychology and because I think it raises broader issues beyond the use of an assistance dog. I think this article provides data and a paradigm that might be used in future studies to analyze underlying reasons that discrimination might occur and novel ways that this might be countered, use of dogs being one of them.

This month's Rehab Science Spotlight was chosen by Sarah Raskin, PhD, Professor, Trinity College, Psychology Department and Neuroscience Program, and a member of Div. 22 Science Committee.