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J Soc Psychol. 1991 Feb;131(1):45-56.

Courtesy stigma: the social implications of associating with a gay person.

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Department of Psychology, University of Arizona.


We investigated the operation of courtesy stigma with American male college students who reacted to a fictitious male student described as gay, rooming by choice with a gay male student, involuntarily assigned to room with a gay, or rooming with a male heterosexual. Among respondents who expressed strong intolerance of gays, the voluntary associate of a gay was perceived as having homosexual tendencies and as possessing the same stereotyped personality traits attributed to a gay. No such courtesy stigma was attached to the involuntary associate of a gay by these respondents. Relatively tolerant respondents engaged in no courtesy stigmatization at all. Thus, courtesy stigmatization occurred only under circumscribed conditions and appeared to depend more on the tendency of highly intolerant individuals to infer that a male student who apparently liked a gay individual was himself gay than on a motivation to maintain cognitive consistency.

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