The Role of Empathy in the Relationship Between Social Political Ideology and Sexual Prejudice in Heterosexual College Students in the U.S.

Abstract

While public acceptance of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals and same-sex relations has grown over the past few decades, there is still opposition to LGB civil rights in the U.S. Previous literature has found links between political ideology and sexual prejudice, while empathy has been linked to both political ideology and sexual prejudice. However, no study has examined the interrelationships between these three variables. For this study, an online survey was administered to a diverse sample of college students in exchange for course credit, and those who self-identified as heterosexual were retained for analyses (N = 1143; 66.1% female; 45.5% White). Mediation analyses were performed to examine whether two subfacets of empathy (empathic concern and perspective taking) mediated the relationship between political ideology and sexual prejudice. Due to gender differences in sexual prejudice and empathy, gender was included in the model as a moderator. The results of moderated mediation analyses indicated both empathic concern and perspective taking were mediators for women, while perspective taking was the only mediator for men. These results suggest that interventions for sexual prejudice may be more effective when using approaches that promote taking the perspective of LGB individuals. Specifically, interventions that utilize empathy training or direct contact with LGB individuals may result in a decrease in sexual prejudice.

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Marsden, A.D., Barnett, M.D. The Role of Empathy in the Relationship Between Social Political Ideology and Sexual Prejudice in Heterosexual College Students in the U.S.. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1853–1861 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01545-5

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Keywords

  • Homophobia
  • Sexual orientation
  • Politics
  • Conservatism