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The association of schizophrenia with split personality is not an ubiquitous phenomenon

Results from population studies in Russia and Germany


A widely prevalent stereotype connected with schizophrenia is its misperception as split personality. We examine whether the popular meaning of the term schizophrenia differs in countries of different cultural imprint by conducting an international cross-cultural comparison of public associations with the word schizophrenia in a Western and a Non-Western industrialized country. We analyze data from two representative population surveys in Novosibirsk, Russia (n = 745), and large German cities (n = 952) that used identical questions and sampling procedures. Unprompted associations with schizophrenia are compared by assigning them to a differentiated categorical system. 31.6% of respondents in Germany associated split personality with schizophrenia, compared to 2.0% in Novosibirsk. Logistic regression analysis controlling for age, gender and educational achievement demonstrated that country differences were independent of socio-demographic variables. Mention of split personality increased significantly with higher education. In Novosibirsk, associations with abnormality and unpredictability prevailed. We hypothesize on those cultural particularities in both countries that have shaped the different public understanding of the term and discuss implications for anti-stigma interventions.

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The project was supported by the German Research Association (Grant # AN 101/5-1).

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Correspondence to Dr. med. Georg Schomerus.

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Schomerus, G., Kenzin, D., Borsche, J. et al. The association of schizophrenia with split personality is not an ubiquitous phenomenon. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 42, 780–786 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-007-0235-7

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Key words

  • schizophrenia
  • stigma
  • stereotype
  • cross-cultural comparison
  • split personality