Does facial attractiveness influence perception of epilepsy diagnosis? An insight into stigma in epilepsy

Publication date: December 2017Source:Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 77
Author(s): Aleksandar J. Ristić, Olja Jovanović, Dragan Popadić, Višnja Pađen, Ahsan N.V. Moosa, Ana Krivokapić, Aleksandra Parojčić, Ivana Berisavac, Andrej Ilanković, Vladimir Baščarević, Nikola Vojvodić, Dragoslav Sokić
BackgroundUsing a group of young healthy individuals and patients with multiple sclerosis (pMS), we aimed to investigate whether the physical attractiveness judgment affects perception of epilepsy. We tested hypothesis that subjects, in the absence of relevant clues, would catch upon the facial attractiveness when asked to speculate which person suffers epilepsy and select less attractive choices.MethodTwo photo-arrays (7 photos for each gender) selected from the Chicago Face Database (180 neutral faces of Caucasian volunteers with unknown medical status) were shown to study participants. Photos were evenly distributed along a continuum of attractiveness that was estimated by independent raters in prestudy stage. In each photo-array, three photos had rating 1–3 (unattractive), one photo had rating 4 (neutral), and three photos had rating 5–7 (attractive). High-quality printed photo-arrays were presented to test subjects, and they were asked to select one person from each photo-array “who has epilepsy”. Finally, all subjects were asked to complete questionnaire of self-esteem and 19-item Scale of stereotypes toward people with epilepsy.ResultsIn total, 71 students of psychology, anthropology, or andragogy (mean age: 21.6±1.7years; female: 85.9%) and 70 pMS (mean age: 37.9±8years; female: 71.4%) were tested. Majority of students or pMS had no previous personal experience with individuals with epilepsy (63.4%; 47.1%, p=0.052). Male photo was selected as epileptic in the following proportions: students — 84.5% unattractive, 8.5% neutral, and 7% attractive; pMS — 62.9% unattractive, 8.6% neutral, and 28.6% attractive (p=0.003). Female photo was selected as epileptic in the following proportions: students — 38% unattractive, 52.1% neutral, and 9.9% attractive; pMS — 32.9% unattractive, 34.3% neutral, and 32.9% attractive (0.003). Both groups showed very low potential for stigmatization: significantly lower in pMS in 10 items. Patients with multiple sclerosis showed significantly higher self-esteem than students (p=0.007).ConclusionFacial attractiveness influences the perception of diagnosis of epilepsy. Both students and pMS were less willing to attribute epilepsy to attractive person of both genders.