Given that stigma surrounding mental illness is largely shaped by popular assumptions about how mental illness is caused and treated, there is surprisingly little research investigating those assumptions in the general population. A paper presented in the January 2008 issue of Comprehensive Psychiatry shows the results of a preliminary study examining the most commonly reported causes of schizophrenia in a sample of 127 urban African Americans. The study participants were asked to endorse items from a list of 30 factors, some of which are congruent with current psychiatric views of schizophrenia, whereas others are not. The results tended to complement previous research in finding that the five most commonly reported causes were: disturbance of brain biochemistry (49.6%), drug/alcohol abuse (42.5%), hereditary factors (40.9%), brain injury (40.2%), and avoidance of problems in life. Approximately 47.9% of the participants endorsed one or more unorthodox or supernatural factors as a cause with possession by evil spirits (28.3%), radiation (20.2%), and punishment by God (19.7%) being the most common. Unorthodox causes of mental illness were more commonly chosen by male participants, those with 12 years of education or less, and participants who reported never having known someone with schizophrenia. The researchers recommend that further research by carried out to provide a better understanding about how unconventional beliefs about the causes of mental illness affect attitudes towards the mentally ill and acceptance of the need for mental health treatment. There is also a strong need for improved education to counter discredited beliefs that re-stigmatize the mentally ill.