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Abstract

Prejudice against gay men and lesbians has continued to fuel negative attitudes that are perpetuated by stereotypes and by validation from those within one’s own social group. While there has been some research regarding the impact of contact on attitudes, the present study expands the theoretical approach of Allport and the empirical work of researchers such as Herek to examine the impact of adding media to interactive contact with lesbian and gay individuals. Participants were placed into one of three treatment groups: control, video only, and video plus contact with gay men and lesbians. The sample included 106 undergraduate students from a Midwestern U.S. community college. Students in all groups completed the Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men scale prior to treatment, immediately following the treatment, and again one week later. Repeated measures analysis of covariance for trend analysis and multivariate analysis of covariance using change scores were used to test the impact of the treatment on attitudes; gender was included as a second main effect. Results indicated that contact and interaction did have an effect on the decreasing negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, as reflected in the change scores of the video-plus-contact group compared with the change scores of the control group. Attitude change scores for the video-only and the video-plus-contact-and-interaction groups were not statistically different, however. The implications for positive social change, via the vicarious contact method of the ever-popular media, include decreasing negative attitudes in group settings such as schools and workplace settings, thus creating more affirming environments for gay men and lesbians.

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