Harm Inflation: Measuring Variability in Understandings of Bullying, Prejudice, Trauma, and Mental Disorder

McGrath, M. J. (University of Melbourne), Haslam, N. (University of Melbourne)

Bullies, bigots, and snowflakes – why have these become such hot-button descriptors in public and private discourse? One explanation is suggested by Haslam’s (2016) theory of concept creep which asserts that the boundaries of psychological concepts such as bullying, prejudice, trauma, and mental disorder have been expanding to include both increasingly mild and qualitatively new phenomena. Over three studies an instrument measuring the extent to which people endorse narrow versus broad understandings of four ‘crept’ concepts, was developed and validated. Sixty-six vignettes reflecting varying perceptions of bullying, prejudice, trauma, and mental disorder were reduced by means of item analysis to a final scale of 40 items, comprising four subscales of ten items. Two validation studies tested the reliability and construct validity of the final scale against a range of established individual difference measures. Findings indicated the concept breadth scale is a reliable and valid measure of concept creep at the individual level.

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Attitudes and Motivation