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The recognition of mental health disorders and its association with psychiatric scepticism, knowledge of psychiatry, and the Big Five personality factors: an investigation using the overclaiming technique


The present study examined the general public’s ability to recognise mental health disorders and this ability’s association with psychiatric scepticism, knowledge of psychiatry, and the Big Five personality factors. A total of 477 members of the British general public completed an overclaiming scale, in which they were asked to rate the degree to which they believed 20 mental health disorders (of which five were foils designed to resemble real disorders) were real or fake. Participants also completed a novel scale measuring psychiatric scepticism, a single-item measure of knowledge of psychiatry, and a measure of the Big Five personality factors. Results showed that participants were significantly more likely to rate foils as fake disorders than real disorders. In addition, the difference between real and foil ratings was significantly predicted by knowledge of psychiatry, psychiatric scepticism, and the Big Five personality factors of agreeableness and openness to experience. These results are discussed in relation to the overclaiming technique as a novel method to study mental health literacy.

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We are grateful for the assistance of Idris Alsagoff, Adnan Haque, Nicolas S. Alexander with data collection.

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Correspondence to Viren Swami.

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Swami, V., Persaud, R. & Furnham, A. The recognition of mental health disorders and its association with psychiatric scepticism, knowledge of psychiatry, and the Big Five personality factors: an investigation using the overclaiming technique. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 46, 181–189 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-010-0193-3

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  • Mental health literacy
  • Overclaiming
  • Psychiatric knowledge
  • Psychiatric scepticism
  • Big Five