Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



The emotional bases of homosexual prejudice are not completely understood, often times not even by the people who hold the prejudice themselves. Because implicit biases can go undetected even by the person holding them, and because they happen before conscious control of emotions is available, these attitudes may be best measured through physiological measures like startle eye-blink response. My honors thesis measures implicit attitudes toward homosexuals using psychophysiological means and examines the influence of religious fundamentalism and right-wing authoritarianism on those non-conscious automatic attitudes. Facial Electromyography (EMG) was used to detect startle responses to an auditory probe while viewing romantic, but not sexual, images of homosexual and heterosexual couples. In Study 1, participants high in religious fundamentalism and right wing authoritarianism were more likely to rate photos of gay couples lower in attractiveness than straight couples. In Study 2, this same result was found in relation to explicit antigay bias, which was also negatively correlated with intrinsic motivation to appear non-prejudiced. Those who were intrinsically motivated, versus extrinsically motivated, exhibited less explicit prejudice. Also, those who were high in supernatural belief on the Post Critical Belief Scale were more likely to show explicit prejudice, regardless of whether they held their beliefs literally or symbolically. The startle response did not have any significant correlation to any self-report measures. This is likely due to either an orienting effect to the gay photos or it may indicate that homosexual prejudice is found more in conscious thought than in implicit attitudes.

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Psychology Commons