In-group and out-group perspectives in the use of derogatory group labels: Gay versus fag

Andrea Carnaghi, Anne Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This research investigates whether derogatory group labels (fag, fairy) elicit different automatic reactions than do category labels (gay, homosexual). In a study (N = 55), involving both heterosexual and homosexual participants, the authors investigated the effects of subliminally represented derogatory versus category labels on the recognition of positive and negative traits that were stereotypical, counterstereotypical, or irrelevant to the category gay, is reported. In line with hypotheses, both derogatory and category labels activated the stereotype. Yet, in heterosexual participants, derogatory labels activated associations that were much less favorable than those activated by category labels. In contrast, homosexual participants reacted in much the same way to category and derogatory labels. The results suggest that heterosexuals are particularly likely to be negatively affected by derogatory group labels. The importance of these findings for the enforcement of political correctness norms is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-156
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Derogatory group label
  • Ethnophaulism
  • Implicit attitude
  • Minority group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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