A new study published in the April issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests people with an intense hostility toward homosexuals may be linked to a repressed same-sex attraction, combined with an authoritarian upbringing.
Study co-author and University of Rochester psychology professor Richard Ryan said: "People who have a discrepancy within themselves about their expressed vs. unconscious sexual attraction find gay and lesbian people more threatening and are more likely to express prejudice and discrimination toward them."
His co-author Netta Weintstein, of the University of Essex, added: "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."
The study subjects were four groups of about 160 college students each, in the USA and Germany. They rated the attractiveness of people in same-sex or opposite-sex photos and answered questions about the type of parenting they experienced growing up, from authoritarian to democratic, as well as homophobia at home.
However, other scientists are skeptical of the findings.
Psychology professor Gregory Herek, of the University of California-Davis, has done extensive research on anti-gay bias and violence, and he says measuring unconscious same-sex attraction is "incredibly difficult."
Herek added: "This study is asking the right questions, but it's a pretty big leap to say it's revealing sexual orientation."
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