Can one TV show make a difference? Will & Grace and the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis

J Homosex. 2006;51(4):15-37. doi: 10.1300/J082v51n04_02.


Television has an opportunity to influence beliefs about groups with which individuals typically may have little direct social contact. This study describes a synthesis of the Contact Hypothesis and the concept of Parasocial Interaction to pose what we call the Parasocial Contact Hypothesis to test whether exposure to gay men on Will & Grace can influence attitudes toward gay men in general. Based on a study of 245 university students, this study examines the relationships among number and intimacy of gay social contacts, parasocial interaction, viewing frequency of Will & Grace, and scores on Herek's Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians scale. Increased viewing frequency and parasocial interaction were found to correlate with lower levels of sexual prejudice-a relationship that was most pronounced for those with the least amount of social contact with lesbians and gay men.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Homosexuality, Female
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice
  • Psychological Theory
  • Social Perception
  • Television*