Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Amy Fiske

Committee Co-Chair

Julie Hicks Patrick

Committee Member

Natalie Shook

Committee Member

Barry Edelstein


The present study examined the effects of different types of dementia knowledge on attitudes and affective reactions towards persons with dementia. Work has demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of personhood-based knowledge have lower levels of personal dementia fear and higher levels of social comfort. However, to our knowledge, work has not examined dementia attitudes more broadly or differentiated causal relations among different forms of dementia knowledge and attitude outcomes. Participants (N = 334) aged 19-78 (M = 44.53, SD = 16.57) were randomized into one of five experimental conditions: (1) biomedical-knowledge (BK; read biological and medical facts about dementia), (2) personhood-based knowledge (PBK; read accounts of life experiences and capabilities written by persons living with dementia), (3) both BK and PBK, (4) control, and (5) active control. Participants then completed outcome measures. A significant effect of knowledge on personal distress and empathic concern (p’s < .01 .05, respectively) emerged: groups did not significantly differ in attitudes, comfort, or dementia worry. Specifically, participants in the combined knowledge condition had higher levels of personal distress than those in the active control condition; they also had higher levels of personal distress than those in the baseline control condition. Those in the PBK condition had higher levels of empathic concern than those in the active control, and baseline control conditions. Overall, these results suggest that increasing personhood-based knowledge about dementia may be useful in fostering feelings of empathic concern, while a combination of both personhood-based knowledge and biomedical knowledge may be more likely to only induce personal distress.