In a recent study that examined perceptions of gays and lesbians by others, Kansas State University psychology professor Richard Harris asked one group of people to think of a positive gay or lesbian character from a television show or movie and asked another group to think of a negative gay or lesbian character from media. A third group, the control group, was asked to think about an unmarried media character, but sexual orientation was not mentioned. All three groups were then asked to complete a personality rating of that character, followed by a survey of their attitudes toward gay and lesbian people in society. Those who had been asked to think of a positive character had more positive attitudes toward gay men in society than those who had been asked to think of a negative character or the control group who thought of an unmarried character.
One of the most striking aspects about the responses, however, was that more than two-thirds of the participants thought of comedian and former sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres or one of the gay characters from the popular television show "Will and Grace." Harris said this suggests that such very popular shows may have a "potentially huge influence to increase tolerance for gays and lesbians in society."
Harris explained that popular media and entertainment have been used to change perceptions and increase education about other types of social issues, especially medical issues, in the past.
Richard Harris | EurekAlert!
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