Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Elizabeth L. Cohen

Committee Member

Matthew M. Martin

Committee Member

Christine E. Rittenour

Committee Member

Danielle M. Davidov


The stigma surrounding opioid use disorder is often reinforced by the language that the general public and institutions use to talk about people with the disorder. Consistent with labeling theory, contending that labels are vehicles for social categorization and stereotypes, triggering bias, (e.g., Ashford, Brown, Ashford, & Curtis, 2019; Corrigan, Kuwabara, & O’Shaughnessy, 2009; Goodyear, Haass-Koffler, & Chavanne, 2018; Link & Phelan, 1999) but the ingroup based cognitive and emotional process through which these affect public stigma has not been explored in detail. This dissertation employs the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) and the Behaviors from Intergroup Affect Stereotypes (BIAS) Map to explain how two different labels for opioid use disorder used in a news article can differentially impact people’s stereotypes (warmth and competence), emotions, and behavioral tendencies toward people with opioid use disorder. For this study, an online experiment compared MTurk users’ (N = 348) perceptions of opioid users, after reading either a news article about a proposed community treatment center for “people who are addicted to opioids” or “people with opioid use disorder.” Contrary to predictions, the label “addict” elicited slightly less contempt compared to “disorder.” This was the only difference between the two experimental conditions. Notably, however, compared to a comparison condition, the “addict” label also increased perceptions of competence, decreased feelings of contempt, and increased a desire to engage in passive facilitation. These results suggest that “addict” might not be as harmful as expected, it could be a colloquial term used to categorize individuals who use opioids.