Are prejudiced reactions to same-sex couples characterized by specific physiological patterns?

Backed by BNR, Blaine Raddon, Ashley Hoskin, Harry Bosma, Natalie Bargen, Susanne Robertson, Debbie Hoskin, Robin, Emily Nagoski, Diane Klemm, and 117 other backers
University of UtahPsychology
Open Access
DOI: 10.18258/1003
$7,766
Raised
103%
Funded on 11/19/13
Successfully Funded
  • $7,766
    pledged
  • 103%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 11/19/13

About This Project

What makes some people react to the sight of two men holding hands with anger, hatred & violence?
Can we use science to find out exactly what goes on in the minds and bodies of prejudiced individuals in the precise moment that they witness a same-sex public display of affection?
We've reached our primary goal of $7500 with 12 days to spare - this means that the study will happen! The total cost of the study, however, is $15,000. You can continue to make donations up until November 18, 2013 - and every contribution will go towards the costs of the study! Thank you so much for all of your support - this is going to be a great study and I'm really excited to finally get started!

Ask the Scientists

Join The Discussion

What is the context of this research?

Can hate crimes against sexual minorities be prevented?

What causes someone to have a violent reaction when witnessing expressions of affection between two men or two women?
Can science intervene to reduce prejudice and hate crimes?

The main research questions in this study relate to the psychophysiological responses that individuals have when they witness affection shared between two men or two women (i.e, public displays of affection, PDAs).

Goals:

  1. Understand the psychophysiology of negative attitudes towards same-sex couples.
  2. Test an intervention to reduce subconscious (implicit) prejudices towards same-sex couples.
Do prejudiced individuals have greater sympathetic nervous system reactions when they witness a same-sex PDA compared to non-prejudiced individuals?
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for what is called the "fight or flight" response - it is the part of our nervous system that prepares us to survive when threatened. This study will monitor the sympathetic nervous system of participants while they witness same-sex PDAs and then test an intervention designed to reduce negative attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples.

What is the significance of this project?

Despite the improvement in attitudes towards LGBTQ individuals, sexual minorities still face a great deal of violence, prejudice and bullying in their day-to-day lives. While legal rights have been improving in some nations, other nations have begun to move in the opposite direction, with some going as far as sanctioning anti-gay violence and abuse.

This research is trying to understand the physiological underpinnings of anti-gay attitudes. What exactly happens when an individual witnesses a same-sex display of affection? How does a prejudiced individual physiologically react when they see two men holding hands? In other words, how does someone go from seeing gay, to seeing red?

If an individual's "fight or flight" system is being activated when they witness two men holding hands, it might be this "activation" that leads to violent hate-based crimes. Consequently, understanding how people physiologically react to targets of their negative attitudes can help us understand how to intervene and prevent violent hate crimes.

This research could not be more timely. Despite the advances in legal protections for LGBTQ individuals in the USA and around the world, these advances are coinciding with increases in violence perpetrated against LGBTQ individuals and those perceived to be LGBTQ. New York City has seen an upsurge in anti-gay hate crime in 2013 that has escalated to murder. Young LGBTQ individuals continue to suffer daily harassment and bullying that all too often leads them to feel their only option for escape is to take their own lives. The Government of Russia has very recently passed laws that severely endanger LGBTQ individuals and their families. Prejudice lies at the root of many of these actions. Understanding more about prejudice can be the key to making the world a better (and safer) place for all LGBTQ individuals.

What are the goals of the project?

All funds raised will go towards the expenses of running the study, which has three parts:

  1. Initial online survey
  2. 2-hour in-lab visit
  3. Follow-up online survey
Our initial fundraising goal was $7500 - which we have met as of November 4th - thanks to 122 very generous supporters!

The actual cost of the study is $15,000. In addition to the 7500 raised, I've also committed to personally contributing $4500 of my salary towards the costs of the study. To find out what your contribution over and above $7500 would mean to this study, please see the budget section below.

After finding out about the study, participants will complete an initial online questionnaire that collects their demographic information and measures their prejudice towards a variety of groups, including LGBTQ individuals.

A selection of these individuals will then be invited to participate in a 2 hour in-lab visit at the University of Utah. During this visit, participants will complete a number of tasks and watch a series of videos while various aspects of their physiological responses are monitored. We will use a small wireless wristband to monitor their electrodermal activity, which is a measurement that cannot easily be controlled by a participant. We will also collect samples of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Although cortisol samples can be expensive to analyze, the samples can be frozen until sufficient funds are available to pay for the analysis.

At the end of the lab visit, participants will take part in an intervention designed to reduce homonegative attitudes (negative attitudes towards sexual minorities) and complete a questionnaire to measure the influence of the intervention.

One month after the lab visit, participants will be asked to complete a second online questionnaire which will determine whether the intervention had lasting effects on their attitudes and prejudices. With sufficient funding, we will repeat this measure again six months following the lab visit.

The primary investigator's salary is being paid by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), meaning that all funds raised by this campaign will go directly to costs of running this particular study.

Budget

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The total budget for this study is just over $15,000. If we meet our fundraising goal of $7500 through this Microryza campaign, I will personally cover the remaining expenses out of my own pocket. The budget covers the costs of advertising to recruit participants, paying participants, paying research assistants, purchasing equipment and software required for the study, implicit attitude measurement and paying for analysis of hormone (cortisol) samples collected during the study.

Here's what it would mean if we were able to exceed our goal of $7500:

  1. An additional $675 would cover the credit card processing fees and give us the full $7500 for our research.
  2. We would be able to recruit more participants for the sample, making our results more reliable.
  3. We would be able to analyze the cortisol samples that we collect, instead of freezing them them until we have secured funding from another source. (This is huge and will make the results of our study much more interesting/useful).
  4. We would be able to pay the Open Access fee for any journals that require the author to pay in order for the study to be open access (i.e. available to all for free).
  5. We would be able to compensate participants for a 6 month follow-up survey - thereby further testing our intervention.
  6. If we raise enough money, we'll be able to run the study with different groups. Right now we are planning to run the study with heterosexual males viewing male same-sex PDAs. With more money, we could repeat the study using heterosexual females viewing female same-sex couples. We could also manipulate things such as the type of PDA (holding hands, kissing, prolonged kissing) or the gender presentation of the same-sex couples. We could also include additional variables, such as the age-discrepancy of couples. Additionally we could use different age groups for our participants. Right now we will be using participants between the ages of 18 and 30, but with additional funds we could also test groups over the age of 30 to see if there are different responses among different age groups.

Endorsed by

Gaining a more nuanced and detailed understanding of the factors that influence prejudice is essential in better understanding the reasons why hate crimes towards LGBTQ people occur. This research is critical in achieving this goal

Meet the Team

Karen L. Blair, PhD
Karen L. Blair, PhD
Assistant Professor, St. Francis Xavier University

Affiliates

Assistant Professor - Psychology Department, St. Francis Xavier University Adjunct Professor - Psychology Department, Acadia University PhD - Social Psychology - Queen's University
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Team Bio

I'm a bit of an anomaly among psychology researchers - but in the best of ways. Instead of being firmly planted in one field of psychological research, my research cuts across various fields, including Health Psychology, Social Psychology, Cross-Cultural Psychology and LGBTQ Psychology. My main area of research is directed at promoting the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals everywhere. To do this, I study relationships, social support, stigma, prejudice, psychophysiology, sexuality and sexual health. I've researched the health implications of having one's romantic relationship approved, the consequences of misleading HIV drug advertisements, attitudes towards sexual minorities in different countries, and experiences of discrimination within LGBTQ communities.

My research has been funded by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Lesbian Health Fund, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

I'm currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Utah funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This funding covers my salary, but leaves me to my own devices for finding funds to support my research. My post-doctoral supervisor is Dr. Lisa Diamond, a leading researcher in the field of sexuality, psychophysiology and same-sex relationships.

Karen L. Blair, PhD

I'm a bit of an anomaly among psychology researchers - but in the best of ways. Instead of being firmly planted in one field of psychological research, my research cuts across various fields, including Health Psychology, Social Psychology, Cross-Cultural Psychology and LGBTQ Psychology. My main area of research is directed at promoting the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals everywhere. To do this, I study relationships, social support, stigma, prejudice, psychophysiology, sexuality and sexual health. I've researched the health implications of having one's romantic relationship approved, the consequences of misleading HIV drug advertisements, attitudes towards sexual minorities in different countries, and experiences of discrimination within LGBTQ communities. I conduct much of my research online, allowing participants from all over the world to share their experiences and ensuring that my findings are relevant to more than just your average college student! My research has been funded by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's Lesbian Health Fund, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Psychology at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Press and Media

Our research has been featured in the following media outlets. To find more on these stories, please click here.

Additional Information

Selected Publications by Dr. Blair

McDermott, D. & Blair, K.L. (2012). 'What's it like on your side of the pond?' A cross-cultural comparison of modern and old-fashioned homonegativity between North American and European samples. Psychology & Sexuality.

Blair, K.L. & Holmberg, D. (2008). Perceived social network support and well-being in same-sex versus mixed-sex romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, p. 759.

More articles and presentations available on Academia.edu



Selected Honours & Awards
Canadian Institutes of Health Research Post-Doctoral Fellowship - 2012-2014
Canadian Federation of University Women Dr. Marion Elder Grant Fellowship - 2010-2011
SSHRC Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement - 2009-2010
Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council oCanada CGS Doctoral Award - 2007-2010
Canadian Institutes of Health Research CGS Master's Award - 2005-2006
Gay & Lesbian Medical Association's Lesbian Health Fund Grant: Principal Investigator - 2005 - 2006
Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation Master's Student Award - 2004-2005

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Project Backers

  • 127Backers
  • 103%Funded
  • $7,766Total Donations
  • $61.15Average Donation
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