Study suggests sexual orientation unconsciously affects our impressions of others

By Jessica Lewis

(Medical Xpress) -- Studies by psychologists at the University of Toronto reveal that when it comes to white men, being straight may make you more likable but in the case of black men, gays have a likeability edge.

In one study, 22 women and nine men viewed 104 photos of straight and gay black and white males and rated their likeability on a scale of one (not likable) to seven (extremely likable). Participants were not informed that some of the men pictured were gay. While overall, white straight men were rated as more likable than white , were rated in the opposite manner: gay blacks were more likable than straight black men.

"We observed that people judge others based on even if they are not consciously aware of whether someone is gay or straight," said doctoral student Jessica Remedios, lead author. "By understanding how sexual orientation affects the rapid evaluations we form about others, we can learn more about predicting and minimizing the of homophobia."

In a second study, 36 women and 14 men were divided into groups to view the same 104 photos. One group was instructed to approach whites and avoid blacks by pulling a joystick toward them when a white face appears and pushing the away when a black face appears; the other group was instructed vice versa, to approach blacks and avoid whites.

Among participants approaching whites, the responses were faster for the straight men than for the gay. Among participants approaching blacks, however, responses were faster for gay than straight men. "Given that faster approach responses indicate greater positivity toward stimuli, the second study is consistent with the liking expressed in the first study," says Remedios.

"These findings suggest that sexual orientation, despite lacking explicit perceptual markers, infiltrates the automatic impression that is formed. Further, our judgment of gay men depends on whether they are white or black."

The paper "Impressions at the intersection of ambiguous and obvious social categories: Does gay + black = likable" was written with U of T associate professors Alison Chasteen, Nicholas Rule and Jason Plaks and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology on June 12.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Black gay men may be at increased HIV risk

Jun 29, 2009

Black gay men have less choice when it comes to sexual partners than other groups and, as a result, their sexual networks are closely knit. These tightly interconnected networks make the rapid spread of HIV more likely. In ...

Recommended for you

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

8 minutes ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

Meaningful relationships can help you thrive

Aug 29, 2014

Deep and meaningful relationships play a vital role in overall well-being. Past research has shown that individuals with supportive and rewarding relationships have better mental health, higher levels of subjective well-being ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dogbert
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2011
In both studies, the participants were predominantly women (22 to 9 and 36 to 14). In neither group were the distribution of homosexual versus heterosexual participants noted neither were the distribution of racial characteristics.

The lack of knowledge of the participants other than gender renders any conclusions questionable when gender, race and sexual orientation of the participants are likely to affect responses.