Experiences of stigma, discrimination, or aggression negatively affect the well-being of people experiencing symptoms of psychopathology. However, empathy is thought to undermine prejudice and discrimination and is linked with positive outcomes (e.g., greater well-being, more social support, etc.) among those with stigmatized mental illnesses. The current work investigates the influence of target age (adult or child) and language type (person-first or identity-first) on how much empathic concern perceivers report toward individuals with a hypothetical mental health condition. This research contributes to an ongoing debate about whether person-first or identity-first language carries stigmatizing or protective effects, while also considering a novel potential moderator: target age (i.e., does person-first and identity-first language similarly affect perceptions of adults and children?). To this end, we employed an experimental vignette design examining empathy expressed toward individuals with a mental health condition, where age was manipulated within subjects and language was manipulated between subjects. The results determine that perceivers report greater empathy towards children than adults. However, the use of person-first and identity-first language did not result in significant findings. Thus, whether language type influences empathic concern remains uncertain. These findings suggest a need for increased empirical examination of interventions to inspire empathy towards people, perhaps especially adults, experiencing symptoms of psychopathology.

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