Imagined contact with famous gay men and lesbians reduces heterosexuals misidentification concerns and sexual prejudice

Publication Year


Journal Article

Gay men and lesbians experience bigotry at alarmingly high rates. Traditionally, researchers have focused on reducing sexual prejudice; however, research indicates that heterosexuals’ concerns about being misidentified as gay/lesbian also contribute to the derogation of gay/lesbian individuals. Thus, reducing misidentification concerns is a critical part of decreasing negativity toward gay/lesbian individuals. In the current work, we explored a novel addition to the imagined contact paradigm—imagined contact with famous outgroup members—for reducing misidentification concerns. We found that imagined contact with famous gay men/lesbians reduced misidentification concerns within the imagined interaction and engendered an eagerness to befriend the famous gay/lesbian interaction partner. Moreover, we found that the reduction of these misidentification concerns led to fewer general contagion concerns, and increased eagerness to befriend led to decreased sexual prejudice. The current work develops a useful intervention for improving multiple responses toward gay men and lesbians. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

European Journal of Social Psychology
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

The following is an excerpt of the intervention methodology. For more information, please see the full text of the article on the publisher's website or through your institution's library.

Study 1


Participants. [...] Our original sample consisted of 147 participants [...]. The remaining 100 participants consisted of 47 males and 53 females with a mean age of 30.82 (SD = 10.08). Participants self-identified as White (44%), Asian (41%), Black (9%), Hispanic (5%), or other (1%).

Procedure. Participants [...] were randomly assigned to imagine and write about a positive contact experience with either a famous gay man/lesbian or a non-famous gay man/lesbian for 5 minutes. Next, participants completed measures of their affect during the imagined contact experience, their difficulty imagining the contact, general contagion concerns, and sexual prejudice.


Manipulation. Participants were asked to imagine a positive and comfortable interaction with either a famous same-sex gay man/lesbian or a non-famous same-sex gay man/lesbian. The instructions for the imagined contact with a famous gay man or lesbian were as follows (for the lesbian version): [Verbal Stimulus A].

Measures. Participants’ positive affect during the imagined contact was assessed using three items [...]. Difficulty imagining a positive contact experience was measured using one item [...]. General contagion concerns were measured using the 10-item scale [...]. Finally, participants completed a measure of explicit sexual prejudice using four items 1 For exploratory purposes, across all studies we included the internal and external motivations to respond without prejudice toward gay men and lesbians scale . In Study 1, we also included measures of beliefs about sexual orientation. In addition, Study 1 measured goals for an interorientation interaction. Studies 2 and 3 included measures of need-fulfillment in interorientation interactions and support for LGBT rights. Finally, Study 3 included an implicit association test assessing evaluative associations with gay/lesbian versus heterosexual people. [...]

Study 2

Study 2 had three primary goals. First, we wanted to replicate the findings from Study 1 in a different sample. Second, we wanted to further explore the processes by which imagining contact with a famous compared to a non-famous gay/lesbian individual led to lower levels of contagion concerns and sexual prejudice. [...]


Participants. Data were collected from as many students at a Southeastern University in the United States as possible at the end of an academic term (n = 63). When we failed to reach an adequate sample size, we recruited additional MTurk workers (n = 35) to improve our power. [...] Data from participants who were not heterosexual (n = 13), or failed our attention check (n = 2) were excluded from analyses, leaving us with 83 participants (47 Females; Mage = 20.75, SD = 4.43). Participants selfidentified as White (62.7%), Hispanic (18.1%), Asian (13.3%), and Black (6.0%). [...]

Procedure. The procedure for Study 2 was identical to that of Study 1 except for the addition of a famous heterosexual condition. That is, participants were randomly assigned to imagine contact with a famous gay man/lesbian, a non-famous gay man/ lesbian, or a famous heterosexual. Study 2 also included a measure of eagerness to interact with the individual in the imagined interaction and a measure of contagion concerns specific to the imagined interaction. All other measures and procedures were the same as those reported in Study 1.

Materials. The instructions for the famous heterosexual condition were identical to those used in the famous gay/lesbian condition, except the words “who is a gay man [lesbian]” were removed. After imagining contact, participants reported their positive affect during the imagined contact experience [...] and difficulty imagining contact. In addition, participants’ eagerness to meet and befriend their imagined interaction partner was measured using five items rated on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 [...]. Participants’ interaction-specific contagion concerns were measured using adapted items from the contagion concerns scale [...]. This scale consisted of ten statements rated on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias