The Effects of Same-Sex Imagery on Affect Valence, Affect Intensity, and Behavioural Change
It has been observed that attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women have slowly improved over the last decade. However, some researchers have opined that this “improvement” may be the result of an over-emphasis on category membership (i.e., descriptions of being gay or lesbian), and the relative omission of sexual behaviour. While a sparse amount of previous research has used sexually explicit stimuli to evoke affective responses in heterosexual participants, the use of such procedures is qualified by the risk of the influence of erotophobia (i.e., a general aversion to any sexually explicit depictions). As a result, alternative stimuli, which are nonsexual but still render the targets’ sexual object choice salient to participants, have been used in lieu of more overt photographs or video clips. The present study sought to expand on previous research that has used images of gay men engaged in everyday intimacies and symbolic threats by also including similar photographs depicting lesbian women and heterosexual couples. Affective responses to each of these groups of images were recorded via feeling thermometers (valence) and a list of six basic emotions (i.e., happiness, disgust, anger, fear, sadness, and surprise). Indicators of old-fashioned and modern homonegativity were also included. Since most affect research has overlooked the intensity of the affective responses provided by participants, this study employed the novel approach of using a mouse that is capable of detecting the pressure used to click it. A multiplicative index (valence X intensity) was created as an indicator of the overall affective response for each participant. Results indicated that, contrary to predictions, images depicting lesbian women were rated as least positive compared to images of gay men and heterosexual couples. In addition, no statistically significant differences in homonegativity emerged across groups. Limitations associated with the current study and avenues for future research are delineated.
homonegativity, gay men, lesbian women, everyday intimacies, symbolic threats, behavioural change
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)