With friends like these. . .the role of prejudice and situational norms on discriminatory helping behavior

J Homosex. 2006;51(2):121-38. doi: 10.1300/J082v51n02_07.


An experiment was conducted to examine the impact of homophobic attitudes and situational norms for helping on discriminatory behavior against a gay male. In a partial replication of Frey and Gaertner (1986), participants were asked to provide help to a confederate portrayed to be either gay or heterosexual who either requested help for himself (ambiguous situational norm) or for whom a third party requested help (unambiguous situational norm). Participants' levels of homophobia were assessed either before or after the main helping task. The results indicated that when norms for helping were ambiguous those participants higher in homophobia discriminated against the gay male, but only on subtle indicators of discrimination. In the unambiguous norm condition, participants higher in homophobia discriminated against the heterosexual male. Those lower in homophobia did not discriminate under either norm condition. The results show that it may be sufficient for those with prejudiced attitudes just to believe that it is not "the wrong thing to do" for their attitudes to be translated into some form of discriminatory behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Friends
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prejudice*