The study found that the subject’s own sexual orientation and the style of parenting they received are factors in the formation of homophobia including intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, hostility towards LGBT people and adoption of anti-LGBT policies. It was conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex and the University of California in Santa Barbara and will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“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,” Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study’s lead author, explained to medicalnewstoday.com
“In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward,” added co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who helped direct the research.
The study involved four separate experiments conducted in Germany and the United States, each involving an average of 160 university students.
Mr Ryan added that the findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that homophobia in the form of fear, anxiety and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people feel towards LGBT people can be stemmed from their own repressed same-sex desires.
Media coverage of LGBT hate crimes suggests attackers often perceive a level of threat from homosexuals. The study’s authors suggest that individuals repressing their sexuality may lash out because gay targets bring this internal conflict to the forefront.