Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Mast, Benjamin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Bufferd, Sara

Committee Member

Bufferd, Sara

Committee Member

Buchino, Susan

Committee Member

Meeks, Suzanne

Committee Member

Walter, Bernadette

Author's Keywords

dementia; attitudes; stigma; aging; positive psychology


Background: Since the 1970s, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been portrayed in a medicalized, symptom-focused manner to help spread awareness, improve diagnosis, and push for treatment research. In recent decades, there has been movement towards a biopsychosocial, person-centered approach that considers social and psychological factors that interact with biological diseases processes. Common biopsychosocial approaches retain an emphasis on deficits and symptoms. New research has integrated positive psychology constructs and dementia. This integration of positive psychology principles and dementia care and research has the potential to more accurately capture the experience of having dementia. Objectives: This dissertation tested how the portrayal of dementia affects perceptions of dementia in the general public. A second objective was to explore variables that predict attitudes about dementia. Finally, this dissertation aimed to assess the perceived credibility of the three informational models of dementia. Methods: The final sample consisted of 255 English-speaking adults living in the United States, aged 19-80, recruited via Amazon MTurk. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: biomedical model of dementia, biopsychosocial model of dementia, or positive psychology-informed model of dementia. Participants then read a vignette and answered a series of questionnaires. Statistical analyses were conducted using SPSS 28. Results: A one-way MANOVA showed no significant difference in perception of dementia between the three dementia model conditions. Multiple linear regressions identified a series of variables that predicted attitudes and beliefs about people with dementia, with ageism emerging as a consistent predictor of both positive and negative perceptions. A one-way ANOVA showed that the positive psychology-informed model and the biopsychosocial model of dementia did not result in worse credibility ratings than the biomedical model. Conclusions: Statistical limitations hinder the ability to draw strong conclusions about several of the analyses. Statistically sound conclusions include the emergence of ageism as a consistent predictor of beliefs about dementia, and the fact that the biomedical model did not have higher credibility ratings than the more holistic models of dementia. These findings encourage future research into the relationship between ageism and perception of dementia, and into the effects of disseminating a positive psychology-informed framing of dementia.