Heroes against homophobia: does elevation uniquely block homophobia by inhibiting disgust?

Bartoş, Sebastian E.; Russell, Pascal Sophie and Hegarty, Peter (2020). Heroes against homophobia: does elevation uniquely block homophobia by inhibiting disgust? Cognition and Emotion, 34(6) pp. 1123–1142.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2020.1726292


Homophobia has decreased in past decades, but gut-level disgust towards gay men lingers. It has been suggested that disgust can be reduced by inducing its proposed opposite emotion, elevation. Elevation is elicited by witnessing self-sacrifice and other uncommon acts of moral goodness. Research suggests elevation might reduce homophobia, but only general elevation (not elevation specifically evoked by gay people) and general attitudes (rather than disgust) have been studied. Nor has elevation?s proposed specific effect on homophobia been differentiated from effects of related emotions, such as admiration or surprise. A series of news stories featuring either a gay man or a man of unspecified sexuality that were intended to elicit elevation, admiration, or surprise distinctly were pretested. We pre-registered the prediction that an elevation-inducing story would reduce negative attitudes by reducing disgust. In Study 1 (N = 593), participants who read elevation-inducing stories did not express more positive attitudes or less disgust towards gay men than those who read stories inducing admiration or surprise. The admiration stories elicited similar or lower levels of disgust than the elevation stories. Study 2 (N = 588), replicated the findings of Study 1 with improved stimuli and measures. Both studies suggest that elevation may not uniquely reduce homophobia, as elevation and admiration have similar effects on this prejudice.

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