Lay Knowledge of Dyslexia


This study looks at the extent to which lay people believe many myths associated with dyslexia. It examined attitudes and beliefs about the causes, manifestations and treatments for dyslexia in a British population sample. A community sample of 380 participants (158 Male; 212 Female) completed a 62-item questionnaire on their attitudes to, and beliefs about, dyslexia. The statements were derived from various “dyslexia facts and myths” websites set up to help people understand dyslexia; academic research papers; and in-depth exploratory interviews with non-specialist people regarding their understanding of dyslexia. Item analysis showed participants were poorly informed about many aspects of dyslexia. Factor analysis returned a structure of latent attitudes in five factors (Characteristics, Biological and Social Causes, Treatment and Prevention). Regression analysis revealed that participant political orientation and education (formal and informal acquaintances with dyslexia sufferers) were the best predictors of attitudes concerning the behavioural manifestations, aetiology and treatments of dyslexia. Limitations and implications of this research were considered.

Share and Cite:

Furnham, A. (2013). Lay Knowledge of Dyslexia. Psychology, 4, 940-949. doi: 10.4236/psych.2013.412136.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Arn, L., Ottosom, J., & Perris, C. (1971). Attitudes towards mental disorder and mental care in university students. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 17, 270-274.
[2] Bell, S., McPhillips, T., & Doveston, M. (2011). How do teachers in Ireland and England conceptualise dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 34, 171-192.
[3] Brunswick., N., Martin, G., & Marzano, L. (2010). Visuospatial superiority in developmental dyslexia: myth or reality. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 421-426.
[4] Cameron, H., & Nunkoosing, K. (2012). Lecturer perspectives on dyslexia and dyslexic students within one faculty of one university in England. Teaching in Higher Education, 17, 341-352.
[5] Chang, W. C. (1985). A cross cultural study of depressive symptomatology. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 9, 295-315.
[6] Chang, W. C. (1988). The nature of the self: A transcultural view. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, 25, 169-189.
[7] Clark A., & Binks, N. M. (1996) Relation of age and education to attitudes toward mental illness. Psychological Reports, 19, 649-650.
[8] Cooper, R. (2010). Are culture-bound syndromes as real as universally-occurring disorders. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 41, 325-332.
[9] Cunningham, A., Perry, K., Stanovich, K., & Stanovich, P. (2004). Disciplinary knowledge of K-3 teachers and their knowledge calibration in the domain of early literacy. Annals of Dyslexia, 54, 139-167.
[10] Eden, G., & Flowers, L. (2009). Skill acquisition, reading and dyslexia. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
[11] Ellis, A., McDougall, S., & Monk, A. (1996). Are dyslexics different? Dyslexia, 2, 31-58<31::AID-DYS34>3.0.CO;2-0
[12] Ferguson, E., & Cox, T. (1993). Exploratory factor analysis: A user’s guide. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 1, 84-94.
[13] Fernando, S. (1988). Race and culture in Psychiatry. Aldershot: Gower.
[14] Furnham, A. (1988). Lay theories. Oxford: Pergamon.
[15] Furnham, A., & Malik, R. (1994). Cross-cultural beliefs about “depression”. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 40, 106-123.
[16] Gwernan-Jones, R., & Burden, R. (2009). Are they just lazy? Student teachers’ attitudes about dyslexia. Dyslexia, 16, 66-86.
[17] Hall. L., & Tucker, C. (1985). Relationships between ethnicity, conceptions of mental illness, and attitudes associated with seeking psychological help. Psychological Reports, 57, 907-916.
[18] Haworth-Hoeppner, S. (2000). The critical shapes of body image: The role of culture and families in the production of eating disorders. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 212-227
[19] Helman, C. (1990). Culture, health and illness. London: Wright.
[20] Jorm, A. (2000). Mental health literacy: Public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 177, 396-401.
[21] Jorm, A., Kelly, C., Wright, A., Parslow, R., Harris, M., & Mc Gorry, P. (2006). Belief if dealing with depression alone. Journal of Affective Disorders, 96, 59-65.
[22] Joshi, R., Binks, E., Hougen, M., Dahlgren, M., Ocker-Dean, E., & Smith, D. (2009) Why elementary teachers might be inade-quately prepared to teach reading. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 392-402.
[23] Kaiser, H. F. (1974). An index of factorial simplicity. Psy-chometrika, 39, 31-36.
[24] Kerr, H. (2001). Learned helplessness and dyslexia: A carts and horses issue? Literacy, 35, 82-85.
[25] Kleinman, A. (1980). Depression, somatisation and the new “crosscultural psychiatry”. Social Science and Medicine, 11, 269-276.
[26] Lee, S. (1997). How lay is lay? Chinese students’ perceptions of anorexia nervosa in Hong Kong. Social Science and Medicine, 44, 491-502.
[27] Leff, J. (1988). Psychiatry around the globe. London: Gaskell.
[28] Leighton, S. (2009) Adolescents’ understanding of mental health problems: Conceptual confusion. Journal of Public Mental Health, 8, 4-14.
[29] Leighton, S. (2010). Using a vignette-based questionnaire to explore adolescents’ understanding of mental health issues. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 15, 231-250.
[30] McClelland, L., & Crisp, A. (2001). Anorexia nervosa and social class. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 29, 150-156.<150::AID-EAT1004>3.0.CO;2-I
[31] McCutchen, D., Abbott, R., Green, L., Beretvas, N. Cox, S., Potter, N., Quiroga, T., & Gray, A. (2002) Beginning literacy: Links among teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning. Journal of Learning Disability, 35, 69-86.
[32] Moats, L. (1994). The missing foundation in teacher education: Knowledge of the structure of spoken and written language. Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 81-102.
[33] Moats, L. (2009) Still wanted: Teachers with knowledge of language. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 387-391.
[34] O'Hare, A. (2010). Dyslexia: What do paediatricians need to know? Paediatrics and Child Health, 20, 338-343.
[35] Osmond, J. (1993). The reality of dyslexia. London: Cassell.
[36] Paradice, R. (2001). An investigation into the social construction of dyslexia. Educational Psychology in Practice, 17, 213-225.
[37] Pennington, B. F., & Gilger, J. W. (1996). How is dyslexia transmitted? In C. H. Chase, G. D. Rosen, & G. F. Sherman (Eds.), Developmental dyslexia: Neural, cognitive, and genetic mechanisms (pp. 41-61). Baltimore, MD: York Press.
[38] Prince, R. (1990). Somatic complaint syndrome and depression: The problem of cultural effects on symptomatology. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, 2, 31-36.
[39] Regan, T., & Woods, K. (2000). Teachers’ Understanding of dyslexia. Educational Psychology in Practice, 16, 333-347
[40] Riddick, B. (1995). Dyslexia: Dispelling the myths. Disability and Society, 10, 457-473.
[41] Shaywitz, B., Shaywitz, S., Pugh, K., Fulbright, R., Mencl, W., Constable, R., Skudlarski, P., Fletcher, J., Lyon, G., & Gore, J. (2001). The neurobiology of dyslexia. Clinical Neuroscience Research, 1, 291-299.
[42] Spencer, K. (2000). Is English a dyslexic language? Dyslexia, 6, 152-162.<152::AID-DYS158>3.0.CO;2-P
[43] Snowling, M. (1987). Dyslexia: A Cognitive Developmental Perspective. Oxford: Blackwell.
[44] Snowling, M., & Thomson, M. (1991). Dyslexia: Integrating Theory and Practice. London: Whurr.
[45] Stein, J. (2001). The magnocelllular theory of developmental dyslexia. Dyslexia, 7, 12-36.
[46] Terras, M., Thompson, L., & Minnis, H. (2009). Dyslexia and psycho-social functioning. Dyslexia, 15, 304-327.
[47] Washburn, E., Joshi, R., & Binks-Cantrell, E. (2011). Teacher knowledge of basic language concepts and dyslexia. Dyslexia, 17, 165-183.
[48] Wadlington, E., & Wadlington, P. (2005). What educators really believe about dyslexia. Reading Improvement, 42, 16-37.
[49] Ying, Y. W. (1990). Explanatory models of major depression and implications for help seeking among immigrant Chinese-American women. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 14, 393-408.

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.