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Gay Actors Convincing in Heterosexual Roles

FRIDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Although being openly gay appears to affect a male actor's masculinity ratings, it does not affect views on his performance, according to a new study.

Researchers from Clemson University in South Carolina found that an actor who is "out" can be convincing when playing a heterosexual role, despite stereotypes about homosexuals.

"Early research showed that people tend to perceive a direct connection between sexual orientation and established gender roles, especially in the entertainment industry," said the study's leader, Paul Merritt, a psychology professor, in a Clemson news release. "However, these new findings indicate that knowledge of an actor's sexual orientation doesn't necessarily cause their performance to be perceived in light of stereotypes about gays and lesbians."

The study, published recently in Psychology of Popular Media Culture, was conducted in the wake of news columns that maintained that knowing someone is gay will bias perceptions of his or her performance in a heterosexual role.

The researchers questioned roughly 400 college students about a male actor's fictional Facebook page, featuring photos and information about his sexual orientation.

The students then watched a video of the actor and rated his performance. The students also stated how likely they would be to cast the actor in their own production. The study revealed that being openly gay didn't affect perceptions or ratings of the actor's performance, but it did influence their opinion of his masculinity.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about sexual orientation and homosexuality.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Clemson University, news release, May 13, 2013

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