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Publication Date

Fall 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Arlene Asuncion


disability, hiring, impression formation, job applicants, psychology

Subject Areas

Psychology; Social psychology; Occupational psychology


Some literature has suggested that the disabled are discriminated against in hiring situations; in other instances they, particularly the physically disabled, have been preferred over nondisabled individuals. Political correctness surely contributes to this prodisability trend, but Kelley's (1971) augmentation principle provides another explanation. If employers are convinced of disabled applicants' qualifications, the principle predicts those applicants will be viewed more favorably than nondisabled candidates because their success in spite of their disability will be seen as indicating exceptional competence.

Psychology undergraduates (N = 248) participated in this 2 (application information: high/low) by 2 (disability: nondisabled/wheelchair-bound) by 2 (applicant quality: moderately qualified/highly qualified), between-subjects experiment in which they evaluated a fictitious job applicant for a job in automotive design. Care was taken to ensure that all applicants met the minimum requirements for the job.

The results showed mixed support for a prodisability trend. Participants rated disabled candidates as calmer and more responsible than they did nondisabled applicants. Also, when asked to make a binary hiring decision in low information situations, they preferred moderately qualified disabled people to similar controls. However, there was no difference between disabled people and controls on a variety of Likert-type measures of expected job performance.