Physiological Reactance and Discrimination in Response to Visual Stimuli of Persons with Down Syndrome
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Despite the enactment of several pieces of legislation, persons with disabilities still experience discriminatory human resource practices. The following dissertation investigates the effect of several physiological measures including electrocardiography, electrodermal activity, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, pre-ejection period, and electromyography on the evaluation of image stimuli of an applicant with Down syndrome and an applicant without Down syndrome. A pilot study of 81 Auburn University undergraduate students tested image stimuli and résumés for equivalency. Another fifty-four students participated in a mock evaluation study to evaluate two equally qualified job applicants, one with Down syndrome and one without, and rated both applicants’ qualification for a grocery store bagger position. Participants’ physiology was monitored while completing the mock evaluation study. Differences in physiological responses were found when participants viewed images of an applicant with Down syndrome in comparison to an applicant without. Additionally, the applicant with Down syndrome received lower ratings on some qualification measures for the position than the applicant without. Memory recall of the applicant résumé did not differ based on disability status. Physiological responses did not appear to mediate the relationship between disability status and qualification ratings and between disability status and memory recall of the applicant résumé. However heart rate as measure in beats per minute (BPM) appeared to suppress the effect between the image stimuli and specific job qualification ratings. The findings represent a preliminary effort to identify the physiological mechanisms that influence discriminatory human resource practices.