Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Is negative the new positive? Secondary transfer effect of exposure to LGBT portrayals in TV entertainment programs

Abstract This study investigates the primary effect of positive, neutral, and negative exposure to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) TV portrayals in entertainment programs on attitudes toward the LGBT community and the Secondary Transfer Effect (STE) of such exposure on attitudes toward people with Asperger's Disorder (the secondary out‐group), controlling for face‐to‐face and online contacts with both out‐groups. Research was conducted using a mixed methods approach. Quantitative Study 1 used an online survey of 716 Israeli Jews, to investigate primary and secondary effects of TV exposure to LGBT portrayals. The positive primary effect of TV exposure was shown—regardless of LGBT portrayals perceived as positive, neutral, or negative. STE of TV exposure to neutral and negative LGBT portrayals is likely to diminish social distance to people with Asperger's Disorder, while no STE was found with positive LGBT portrayals. Full mediation effect of attitudes toward the LGBT community was found. Qualitative Study 2, based on 52 in‐depth interviews, was conducted in order to reveal the hidden mechanisms of these effects, examining the parasocial experience and its interpretations by the viewers. According to qualitative findings, the positive primary and secondary effects of negative exposure may be explained by varied interpretations of gay portrayals on TV by different people depending on social background and life experience, opposite reaction on stereotypical gay portrayals on TV, and asymmetrical negative‐positive heuristic. Given the important role of TV in fostering more positive intergroup relations, this research revealed sources of prejudice reduction and increase in tolerance toward “others” for society at large.

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