The goal of the current study was to examine whether differential neural attentional capture and evaluative responses for out-group homosexual relative to in-group heterosexual targets occur during social categorization. To this end, 36 heterosexual participants were presented with pictures of heterosexual and homosexual couples in a picture-viewing task that was designed to assess implicit levels of discomfort toward homosexuality and explicit evaluations of pleasantness toward the images. Neural activity in the form of electroencephalogram was recorded during the presentation of the pictures, and event-related potentials resulting from these stimuli were examined. Participants also completed questionnaires that assessed the degree to which they socialized with gays and lesbians. Results demonstrated that relative to straight couples, larger P2 amplitude was observed in response to gay but not to lesbian couples. However, both gay and lesbian couples yielded a larger late positive potential than straight couples. Moreover, the degree to which participants differentially directed early neural attention to out-group lesbian versus in-group straight couples was related to their familiarity with homosexual individuals. This work, which provides an initial understanding of the neural underpinnings of attention toward homosexual couples, suggests that differences in the processing of sexual orientation can occur as early as 200 ms and may be moderated by familiarity.
Dickter, Cheryl L.; Forestell, Catherine A.; and Mulder, Blakely E., Neural Attention and Evaluative Responses to Gay and Lesbian Couples (2015). Social Neuroscience, 10(3), 308-319.