Homophobic epithets in the intergroup frame:
Heterosexuals’ cognitive, affective and behavioral reactions to gay-bashing labels
In a recent Italian survey, 80% of those interviewed reported hearing acquaintances using homophobic labels very often (47.4 %) or sometimes (32.6%; Istituto Nazionale di Statistica [ISTAT], 2011). Though this portrays the Italian context as strongly homophobic, sexual prejudice and the use of homophobic labels is also firmly entrenched in other European countries and the US (see, Eurobarometer 2012; Herek 2009). The current research program analyses whether and how homophobic epithets affect heterosexuals’ cognitive, affective and behavioural reactions towards homosexuals. Findings attest that homophobic epithets (vs. category labels) enhance explicit (Study 1) and implicit (Study 2) sexual prejudice, strengthen inter-group bias (Study 3), increase the dehumanization of homosexuals (Study 4), boost heterosexual males’ differentiation from homosexuals (Study 5) and promote physical distance from homosexuals (Study 6). Results are discussed within an inter-group framework.