Essentialist beliefs: Understanding contact with and attitudes towards lesbian and gay individuals

Ashley Lytle*, Christina Dyar, Sheri R. Levy, Bonita London

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sexual prejudice remains a widespread problem worldwide. Past research demonstrates that cross-orientation contact (contact between heterosexuals and lesbian/gay individuals) reduces sexual prejudice among heterosexuals, especially when contact is high quality. This study extends the literature on the relationship between cross-orientation contact and sexual prejudice and the mediation of this relationship by intergroup anxiety by examining the role of a key ideology – essentialist beliefs about homosexuality (immutability, universality, and discreteness beliefs). Findings indicate that the mediation of the relationship between cross-orientation contact and sexual prejudice by intergroup anxiety differs by level of essentialist beliefs. Additionally, the relationship between cross-orientation contact and sexual prejudice appears to be mediated by essentialist beliefs as well as intergroup anxiety. These results suggest that individuals who endorse essentialist beliefs commonly associated with increased bias (high discreteness and low immutability and universality beliefs) may benefit the most from cross-orientation contact and resultant decreases in intergroup anxiety. Further, decreasing essentialist beliefs generally associated with increased bias may be a mechanism through which cross-orientation contact reduces sexual prejudice. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-88
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Keywords

  • contact
  • essentialism
  • quality
  • sexual orientation
  • sexual prejudice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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