Individuals who are more sensitive to disgust are more likely to have negative attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women, according to new intercultural research published in the journal Group processes and intergroup relations. The results provide evidence that antigay bias is in part related to pathogen avoidance.
“I became interested in prejudice against gay men and lesbian women a couple of years after I became familiar with developmental psychology, perhaps around 2010,” explained study author Florian van Leeuwen, assistant professor at the university. of Tilburg.
“I could understand the explanations for romantic jealousy and introsexual competition for mates. But I didn’t understand why straight males would benefit from negative attitudes and aggressive behavior towards gay men. From the perspective of straight men, gay men are not competitors in the mating market, so why the disapproval of their sexual preference? What’s going on here?”
The behavioral immune system appears to be one of the reasons. While the physicist the immune system has evolved to defend itself against pathogens that have entered the body, some animals (including humans) have also evolved to behavioral immune system that motivates them to avoid contact with other organisms that can carry infectious pathogens.
“One explanation of why people may have negative views on homosexuality is that they associate homosexuals with infectious diseases, such as HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Another explanation is that people associate homosexuality with sexual behavior that they find disgusting, “Van Leeuwen said.
“Previous research on these explanations has shown that people who have a greater tendency to feel disgusted (people who are more sensitive to disgust) tend to be more prejudiced towards gay men and lesbian women. However, this previous research mainly involved people from the United States and Canada. “
The researchers analyzed data from a large cross-cultural survey that included measures of sensitivity to pathogen disgust and attitudes towards gay men. Specifically, participants indicated how disgusted they felt at various activities that could cause an infection, such as accidentally touching another person’s bleeding cut. They also reported their feelings of friendliness towards gay men and lesbian women and answered the questions: “Should homosexuals have the exact same marriage rights as heterosexuals?” and “Should society accept homosexuality?” The sample included 11,200 adult heterosexuals from 31 countries.
“This study was a group effort,” Van Leeuwen said. “This research was part of a large intercultural research project on sensitivity to disgust led by Josh Tybur and Yoel Inbar and which included many other researchers from around the world.”
Researchers found small but statistically significant relationships between sensitivity to disgust and antigay attitudes. “In short, we found the same relationship from previous work – people who are more sensitive to disgust are also more biased towards gay men and lesbian women – and this relationship doesn’t seem to differ much between countries,” Van said. Leeuwen at PsyPost.
The study controlled for variables such as political ideology, participant sex, and religiosity. But as with any study, the new research includes some caveats.
“We didn’t include measures of what aspects of homosexuality people oppose,” Van Leeuwen explained. “Don’t they like gay men because they perceive them as a violation of sexual norms? Or the religious norms? Or just rules in general? Or maybe they don’t like gay men because they believe these men are bad role models for children? We have not measured these variables “.
“There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed,” continued Van Leeuwen. “We performed some secondary analyzes to better understand why sensitivity to disgust is positively correlated with prejudice towards gay men and lesbian women. The findings were consistent with a more general process whereby prejudice towards gay people is a downstream consequence of people’s reproductive strategies. People differ in how much they are invested in monogamous reproduction. The idea is that those who are most involved in monogamy have the most to lose from their partner abandoning them and their children. “
“So these people could strategically try to reduce the sexual promiscuity of others, for example by creating norms that maintain monogamous relationships. I think this is an interesting explanation and there is some evidence for it. But at this point, we don’t really know if it holds up as an explanation for the prejudice against gay men and lesbian women in all cultures around the world. “
The study, “Sensitivity to disgust refers to attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women in 31 nations,” was written by Florian van Leeuwen, Yoel Inbar, Michael Bang Petersen, Lene Aarøe, Pat Barclay, Fiona Kate Barlow, Mícheál de Barra, D. Vaughn Becker, Leah Borovoi, Jongan Choi, Nathan S. Consedine, Jane Rebecca Conway, Paul Conway, Vera Cubela Adoric, Ekin Demirci, Ana María Fernández, Diogo Conque Seco Ferreira, Keiko Ishii, Ivana Jakšić, Tingting Ji, Inga Jonaityte, David MG Lewis, Norman P. Li, Jason C. McIntyre, Sumitava Mukherjee, Justin H. Park, Boguslaw Pawlowski, David Pizarro, Pavol Prokop, Gerasimos Prodromitis, Markus J. Rantala, Lisa M. Reynolds, Bonifacio Sandin, Barış Sevi, Narayanan Srinivasan, Shruti Tewari, Jose C. Yong, Iris Žeželj and Joshua M. Tybur.