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School of Applied Social Sciences

SASS Staff

Publication details for Dr Mark McCormack

Ripley, M., Anderson, E., McCormack, M. & Rockett, B. (2012). Heteronormativity in the university classroom: Novelty attachment and content substitution among gay-friendly students. Sociology of Education 85(2): 121-130.

Author(s) from Durham


This article explores the complex relationship between an openly gay instructor, homophobia, and heteronormativity in a university classroom. The authors first tabulated the frequency with which the instructor used the lives of heterosexuals and homosexuals as examples of content or as content itself, and then they interviewed 32 students about their perceptions of these frequencies. They found that students significantly overestimated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) frequencies and underestimated heterosexual ones. The authors develop two analytical concepts to highlight this form of heteronormativity: novelty attachment and content substitution. They explain these phenomena by suggesting that the novelty of using LGBT examples and discussing homosexuality as content results in the activation of stereotypes among otherwise gay-friendly students. They examine the cognitive underpinnings of this using social identity theory and call for further research to examine the applicability of their theory to other minority groups.