Understanding Prejudice
Understanding Prejudice
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College Student Assignments

A Field Study of Reactions to Homosexuality


To systematically assess social reactions to openly homosexual behavior and to better understand the pressure to hide minority sexual orientations.


Tell students that if they would like to try a field experiment, they should go to a well-lit, safe, and populated area off campus with a same-sex friend and try the following activities:

  1. Hold hands as you walk down the street (experimental condition 1)
  2. Walk with your arm around your friend (experimental condition 2)
  3. Walk side-by-side without touching each other (control condition)

Students should be instructed to carefully observe social reactions as well as their own feelings during the exercise, and write a 3- to 5-page report on the experiment and its results.

Variation 1

Students might be grouped into four-person research teams with two females and two males. That way, they can compare social reactions when walking with someone of the same sex and walking with someone of a different sex.

Variation 2

Students can perform a solo field study by walking in a public area with a button that says something like "I Support Gay Rights," "Straight But Not Narrow," "Bisexual Pride," "Lesbian Power," or "Gay Is Beautiful." For this assignment, students can either create their own buttons or choose from buttons you have made in advance. Once students have created or chosen a button, ask them to wear it wherever they go for a day and then write about how they felt and how others responded.


This assignment should be strictly optional, so that students do not feel forced to publicly behave in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. One possibility is to offer this assignment as an optional alternative to the previous assignment above ("Turning the Tables on Heterosexism"). Also, it is very important to stress that students should not try this experiment in a setting that puts them at risk of being harassed, attacked, or assaulted. Safety should be your top priority, and this exercise should not be assigned if local community reactions would put students in danger of antigay violence.

Variation 1 Source

Adapted from Blumenfeld, W. J. (Ed.). (1992). Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Variation 2 Source

Adapted from Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.