Exploring heterosexism through relationship perception of same and other sex avatar stimuli
Heterosexism refers to discrimination against gay men and lesbians manifested in cultural institutions that gives heterosexuals an advantage (Herek, 2007). In the current study participants rated the likelihood that avatars were in different types of relationships based on a video of a short interaction. Video dyads were depicted in scenes that suggested they were clearly friends, clearly a romantic couple, or it was unclear (Level of Ambiguity: Clearly Friends, Neutral, Clearly Couple). The avatars were comprised of Male-Male, Male-Female, or Female-Female dyads (Couple Sex). A 3 (Level of Ambiguity) X 3 (Couple Sex) X 2 (Participant Gender) analysis of variance showed significant main effects for Level of Ambiguity and Couple Sex for ratings of likelihood that they were co-workers, were in a romantic relationship for less than one year, and were in a romantic relationship for more than one year. Interactions between Level of Ambiguity and Couple Sex occurred for coworkers, in a romantic relationship for less than one year, and in a romantic relationship for more than one year. Further studies of the impact of heterosexism on relationship perception could increase awareness of the issue and provide policy makers with a convincing argument to work toward changing negative societal attitudes.