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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Kenneth D. Day

First Committee Member

Jon F. Schamber

Second Committee Member

Robert W. Blaney


This study examined the influence of interpersonal and mass communication on heterosexual people's attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. In addition, the study examined the relationship between heterosexual people's tolerance for ambiguity, a personality factor, and their attitude toward homosexuality. Survey questionnaires were distributed to 149 heterosexual respondents at a small private university in the western United States. Three pre-existing instruments were used in the study: the Attitude Toward Homosexuality Scale (ATHS), the Index of Homophobia (IHP ), and the Multiple Stimulus Types Ambiguity Tolerance Scale (MSTAT-1). Two original instruments were also used: a set of four questions on contemporary gay issues and a survey assessing individuals' perceived sources of information on homosexuality. Frequency of both interpersonal and mass communication was found to be negatively correlated with support for gay issues. In addition, frequency of interpersonal communication was found to negatively correlate with homophobia (IHP). Tolerance of ambiguity negatively correlated with heterosexism on all measures. No statistically significant differences were found between the perceived credibility of interpersonal and mass communication sources. The results of a stepwise regression suggest that attitudes toward homosexuals can be most parsimoniously predicted by the number of acquaintances an individual has who are openly gay or lesbian and gender. Men were found to be considerably more heterosexist than women, except in the case of attitudes toward lesbians for which men's heterosexism was substantially reduced. Although a weak relationship exists between tolerance for ambiguity and attitudes toward homosexuality, tolerance of ambiguity does not appear to be a strong predictor of heterosexism. Interpersonal and mass communication sources exhibited no statistically significant residual effect on attitudes toward homosexuality after stronger predictors (number of gay acquaintances, gender, and tolerance of ambiguity) were entered into the stepwise regression. These results suggest that "coming out" may be the best means of reducing heterosexism in society.



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