Why do we choose to hate?
If we let he without sin cast the first stone, chances are not many rocks would be in the air, and yet we continue to judge day after day.
It’s human nature to see the actions and behaviors of others and innately pass judgement based on our own standards, but our deep-rooted disapprovals of certain lifestyles might just be more telling about ourselves than we’d like to admit.
You may have heard it said that homophobes are more likely to be gay themselves, or that, in general, people who vehemently disagree with certain actions or ways of life are in fact secretly or even subconsciously more prone to emit those very behaviors, but is this true?
Finally, a study to put all our questions to rest.
A group of psychologists set out to study where anti-gay attitudes stem from.
A team of researchers led by Richard and William Ryan at the University of Rochester looked at an assortment of previous studies that aimed to measure the discrepancy between individuals’ self-described sexual orientation and their implicit sexual orientation.
Participants were asked to describe themselves before being asked to sort words and pictures into the categories of gay or straight as quickly as possible. For example, they would be shown a picture of a same-sex couple or a word like “homosexual” before having to decide which category it belonged in. Unbeknownst to participants, before some words and images, the words “me” or “other” were also flashed for 35 milliseconds, just enough time to be subliminally processed without registering consciously.
The subliminal messaging had a profound effect.
When “me” or “other” flashed before the other stimuli, it tested semantic association, meaning that when the participant identified with both images, for example, a straight participant seeing “me” and a picture of a straight couple, they would sort the image into the “straight” category more quickly. On the contrary, if a straight participant subliminally saw the word “me” flashed before homosexual imagery, it would take them longer to register it into the correct category.
The study revealed that a group of about 20% of participants, while identifying as highly straight, subconsciously demonstrated same-sex attraction given their response times. These same individuals also emitted more anti-gay behavior, this exhibiting reaction formation, the defense mechanism by which people react strongly against things that cause them anxiety, such as behaviors they try and repress.