Tracking Subtle Stereotypes of Children with Trisomy 21: From Facial-Feature-Based to Implicit Stereotyping


  • Enea-Drapeau Claire
  • Carlier Michèle
  • Huguet Pascal


  • Children
  • Disabilities
  • Down syndrome
  • Genetic disorders
  • Personality traits
  • Social research
  • Chromosomal disorders
  • Face

document type



Background Stigmatization is one of the greatest obstacles to the successful integration of people with Trisomy 21 (T21 or Down syndrome), the most frequent genetic disorder associated with intellectual disability. Research on attitudes and stereotypes toward these people still focuses on explicit measures subjected to social-desirability biases, and neglects how variability in facial stigmata influences attitudes and stereotyping. Methodology/Principal Findings The participants were 165 adults including 55 young adult students, 55 non-student adults, and 55 professional caregivers working with intellectually disabled persons. They were faced with implicit association tests (IAT), a well-known technique whereby response latency is used to capture the relative strength with which some groups of people—here photographed faces of typically developing children and children with T21—are automatically (without conscious awareness) associated with positive versus negative attributes in memory. Each participant also rated the same photographed faces (consciously accessible evaluations). We provide the first evidence that the positive bias typically found in explicit judgments of children with T21 is smaller for those whose facial features are highly characteristic of this disorder, compared to their counterparts with less distinctive features and to typically developing children. We also show that this bias can coexist with negative evaluations at the implicit level (with large effect sizes), even among professional caregivers. Conclusion These findings support recent models of feature-based stereotyping, and more importantly show how crucial it is to go beyond explicit evaluations to estimate the true extent of stigmatization of intellectually disabled people.

more information