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How Aliens Can Help Reduce Homophobia

The British Psychological Society has a fascinating summary of some new research at Brock University. Apparently, intervention programs that are...


The British Psychological Society has a fascinating summary of some new research at Brock University. Apparently, intervention programs that are designed to reduce homophobia in schools or other institutions often don't work well. Part of the problem is that they tend to use role-playing in which homophobic participants are asked to imagine the difficult experience of being gay in an intolerant society. Not surprisingly, homophobic people don't slip easily into this role. Being homophobic, they resist imagining themselves as gay.But you can sort of trick homophobic people into appreciating what's hard about being a minority by invoking a scenario involving aliens. Here's how it works:For the Alien-Nation task, the [homophobic] students formed groups of four to five members and imagined landing on an alien planet that's populated by aliens who look exactly like humans, but who don't allow any public displays of affection, and who live in same-sex housing and reproduce by artificial insemination.The participants answered questions about how they would cope with life on the planet and maintain their lifestyles. They also shared plans for how to behave romantically in secret and how to identify other humans.After the exercise, the homophobic students who imagined living in this repressive alien nation were much more sympathetic to gays than students who attended a lecture on homophobia. What's clever about this is that it circumvents people's knee-jerk aversion to homosexuality (whether that's visceral, political, religious, or whatever) while making them feel the challenges of being gay.
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