A new study released late last month by the University of London and the University Institute of Lisbon found that straight people -- particularly conservatives -- feel the need to "physically cleanse" themselves after imagining contact with a gay man.
Goldsmiths University of London reports:
This set of four experiments demonstrates that prejudice towards homosexuals may be experienced and expressed through physical cleansing, as a reaction to thoughts of physical contamination. Existing research undertaken in this field has demonstrated that the subconscious mind behaves in a way that avoids 'contaminating' contacts.
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, one of the lead researchers, based in the Department of Psychology, said: "Labelling people as impure is a culturally universal way of expressing prejudice. Just look at the language of hostile propaganda throughout history and you will see targeted groups described as unclean. Physical cleansing is used as a way to euphemise through actions such as excluding from social life, depriving of human rights, imprisoning or finally exterminating.
"We undertook four studies with a variety of different people to investigate whether this idea of contamination and prejudice applied to homosexuals as a social group. And we found that all studies demonstrated that prejudice was expressed through the desire to cleanse oneself after only an imagined contact with homosexuals."
The studies involved a total of more than 200 participants from the UK, Portugal, and Poland. In all four experiments, they were asked to imagine making a phone call from a mobile phone borrowed from either a gay or a straight man and then were asked to perform word completion and object association tasks afterwards.
Participants who imagined borrowing a phone from a gay man expressed a greater preference for cleansing products like wipes and hand sanitizer and selected "significantly more words" about cleansing than those who imagined borrowing one from a straight man.
More, after the jump.