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Communicating to Influence Perceptions of Social Stigma : Implications for the Use of Signs by the Homeless as a Means of Soliciting Funds

Boster, Franklin J., Liu, Rain Wuyu, Poorisat, Thanomwong, Cheng, Ying, Kim, Wonkyung, Salmon-Seidmann, Nicholas D., Salmon, Charles T.
social stigma, United States
Homelessness is an important social problem in many countries, including the United States. The plight of the homeless is compounded by a high level of stigma associated with the homeless. This study examines the effects of humorous and nonhumorous signs used by the homeless to attract donations. Study 1 shows that nonhumorous signs attracted 10 times as much money as humorous signs. Study 2 shows that subjects felt more comfortable in the presence of homeless not holding a sign and perceived them more positively compared with homeless holding a humorous sign. Positive perceptions of them led to more comfort, which led to more donations. Study 3 shows that subjects perceived homeless not holding a sign more positively compared with homeless holding a nonhumorous sign. These findings suggest that signs make potential donors feel uncomfortable, potentially resulting in diminished donations.