Explicit stigma and implicit biases toward autism in South Korea versus the United States

So Yoon Kim, Jeong Eun Cheon, Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, Jennifer Grandits, Young Hoon Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This cross-cultural study examined Koreans’ and Americans’ explicit stigma and implicit biases toward autism to examine potential mechanisms underlying recent evidence for heightened explicit autism stigma in South Korea relative to the United States. This evidence is somewhat at odds with other evidence that individuals living in collectivistic cultures such as South Korea may be more prone to present themselves favorably than those living in relatively individualistic cultures such as the United States. A total 224 American and 536 Korean non-autistic adult participants completed an online survey. Implicit biases were measured using the implicit association test. Koreans reported greater explicit stigma and exhibited more implicit biases toward autism than Americans. Explicit stigma was not correlated with implicit biases in either country. Less autism knowledge and pleasant contact with autistic people predicted greater explicit stigma among both Koreans and Americans. Less frequent contact and heightened assimilation ideology toward ethnic minorities predicted greater stigma only among Koreans. The variance in implicit biases explained by predictors was small, emphasizing the need for follow-up research investigating predictors of implicit biases. Informing Koreans about the shortcomings of assimilationist approaches and fostering an appreciation of the plurality of cultures may reduce stigma toward autistic individuals in South Korea. Lay abstract: How people report their feelings about autism may be different from how they actually think about autism because some people may not want to reveal their true feelings. People who value the group’s goal tend to present themselves as more socially acceptable than people who value one person’s interests. We studied how people in South Korea and the United States report their feelings about autism and think about autism. Koreans tend to value the group’s goals. Americans tend to prefer one person’s goals. Koreans reported that they wanted more space from autistic people than Americans did. Koreans were more likely to think about autism with negative words (and think more negatively about autism). How Koreans and Americans report their feelings about autism was not related to their thoughts about autism. People who knew about autism and liked meeting with autistic people wanted to get closer to autistic people in South Korea and the US, Koreans who had met autistic people and thought that people who newly came to Korea from abroad should be more like Koreans did not want to get very close to autistic people. This could be because very few foreign people live in South Korea compared to the United States. Teaching Koreans that all cultures have values and should be appreciated will help them like autistic people more.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1492-1507
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jul

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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