A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that male college students who exhibit anti-gay attitudes showed an subconscious bias in favor of homosexual imagery and activities.
The study, which included 38 straight male students from the University of Geneva, looked to uncover authentic attitudes toward gay men. Participants had to complete a computerized test designed to measure their unconscious, impulsive tendencies toward images of two gay men.
The men had to rate 20 pictures of homosexual and heterosexual couples on a nine-point scale from “very unpleasant” to “very pleasant” while wearing an eye-tracking device that measured how long they looked at each photo.
The men who held anti-LGBT attitudes usually spent more time looking at the homosexual photographs than the heterosexual ones, while men who didn’t hold homophobic views did not.
“Findings on the viewing time allow understanding why some (but not all) men high in homophobia have a sexual interest in same-sex individuals,” researchers said. “This study provides a better understanding of the psychological processes involved in the processing of erotic gay material among men high in homophobia, and provides a fine-grained prediction of sexual related behaviors.”
Despite the findings, researchers say it is still hard to determine how big of a role suppressed same-sex attractions play in the formation of anti-gay attitudes.