A stigma — originally a branding-iron mark on a prisoner or slave — serves as a mark of disgrace. To carry the stigma of a bankruptcy, an HIV infection, an addiction, a reviled religion, or another negatively stereotyped social group is to be dishonored, disapproved, or even dehumanized by others.
For those scarred by a stigma, note Cynthia S. Wang, Jennifer A. Whitson, Eric R. Anicich, Laura J. Kray, and APS Fellow Adam D. Galinsky (2017), the psychological effects may be either overt or covert. A possible overt result is discrimination: Those stigmatized are often avoided, not hired, unloved. A possible covert result is internalization of the stereotypes and slurs: Women may lose their motivation to lead others; the elderly may presume they are too slow for the demands of work; gay youth may harbor suicidal thoughts.