It's long been theorized that many hardcore, anti-gay homophobics are often repressed homosexuals themselves. There certainly has been a lot of anecdotal evidence from notable political figures to support this theory, but now science is stepping in with some raw data.
The paper, recently published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, covers six studies conducted in the U.S. and Germany, using a total of 784 university students. Students were first asked to rank their sexual orientation from 1 (highly gay) to 10 (highly straight). They then took a computerized test designed to determine their actual sexuality. How in the hell can a computer program determine your implicit sexuality, you ask? Subjects were shown pictures and words closely associated with homosexuality and heterosexuality (words like "gay," images of straight or gay couples, etc.), and were then asked to sort them into the appropriate category (gay or straight) as quickly as possible. But there was a very critical additional element, as Dr. Richard Ryan explains:
The twist was that before each word and image appeared, the word "me" or "other" was flashed on the screen for 35 milliseconds - long enough for participants to subliminally process the word but short enough that they could not consciously see it. The theory here, known as semantic association, is that when "me" precedes words or images that reflect your sexual orientation (for example, heterosexual images for a straight person), you will sort these images into the correct category faster than when "me" precedes words or images that are incongruent with your sexual orientation (for example, homosexual images for a straight person). This technique, adapted from similar tests used to assess attitudes like subconscious racial bias, reliably distinguishes between self-identified straight individuals and those who self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
From the group that identified themselves as "highly straight" a subsection emerged—about 20 percent of them indicated a high level of same-sex attraction. Further, those that self-identified as highly straight but exhibited homosexual impulses were "significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies; to be willing to assign significantly harsher punishments to perpetrators of petty crimes if they were presumed to be homosexual; and to express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects (also measured with the help of subliminal priming)."
Dr. Ryan notes that the test doesn't indicate that all those who are anti-gay are secretly in the closet, but if we extract the numbers from the study (20 percent of self-identified "highly-straight" people), one could theorize that one out of five might be. That not an insignificant number. It's enough that it could shake the anti-gay movement to its core if, y'know, they believed it at all. You can purchase the full paper for $12, and it's a very interesting read.
What do you think, dear reader? These are pretty bold claims from a test the uses subliminal messaging as its ace in the hole. Does this seem like a reasonable study to you, or is it just quack-science? And am I the only one that kinda wants to take this test and see if I'm gayer than I think I am? [NY Times]