Date of Award

Fall 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Valerian Derlega

Committee Member

Elaine Justice

Committee Member

Barbara Winstead


An attributional model of controllability suggests that perceptions of someone's controllability of an event lead to anger and rejection, whereas perceptions of uncontrollability lead to pity and helping. This study examined the impact of an HIV victim's sexual orientation and "responsibility" for infection on subjects' affective responses, self-disclosure to the person, social support, and liking and trust for the person. Subjects received messages from their "partner" (a confederate) stating that he had just learned he was HIV positive. The message either stated that he was heterosexual or homosexual, and that he had either only one partner or many partners. Subjects responded to this message, and were also given the opportunity to self-disclose. Subjects were then measured on their affective responses, liking and trust for their partner, and other measures. Overall, subjects reported more negative affect and less trust for a homosexual versus heterosexual HIV positive individual. Subjects also responded more intimately to a heterosexual HIV positive person than to a homosexual HIV positive individual. Subjects reported feeling more negative with a homosexual/irresponsible HIV positive person than anyone else, and dismissed (ignored or attempted to explain away) the problem less with someone who was homosexual/irresponsible than anyone else. Subjects also responded with more factually intimate statements and self-disclosed with more non-intimate statements with a homosexual/irresponsible person than anyone else. These results indicate a negative bias toward homosexuals, and that the negative bias is compounded when paired with a perception of irresponsibility.


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