A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that homophobic attitudes are more prominent among individuals who experience suppressed or unacknowledged attraction towards others of the same sex, Huff Post reports.
The study consisted of four different experiments in the U.S. and Germany and involved roughly 160 college students in each. The results support the long-held theory that self-identified heterosexuals who repress their same-sex inclinations are more likely to experience greater feelings of fear, aversion, and violence toward LGBT people.
“In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward,” study co-author and University of Rochester psychology professor Richard Ryan told Science Daily. “We laugh at or make fun of such blatant hypocrisy, but in a real way, these people may often themselves be victims of repression and experience exaggerated feelings of threat. Homophobia is not a laughing matter.”
In the experiments, participants were first exposed to words and images with sexual connotations to measure their implicit and explicit sexual orientation. Researchers then inquired about the family background of each participant, and the subjects subsequently looked at pictures of gay or straight couples.
Participants with supportive parents were more likely to be aware of their implicit sexual preferences, the study found.
”In a predominately heterosexual society, ‘know thyself’ can be a challenge for many gay individuals. But in controlling and homophobic homes, embracing a minority sexual orientation can be terrifying,” said lead author and University of Essex lecturer Netta Weinstein.
“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves.”