Sure, there are lots of things to love about our wonderful online age (at least for those of us who are allowed to be part of it). But, for me, one of the greatest gifts of the Internet is to the dinner party conversation.
Before the dawn of the web, guests were stuck talking about the tedious minutia of their daily lives (their jobs, their children, their car repairs). Today, with weird and wonderful anecdotes just a mouse-click away, you never know what interesting adventure lies around the corner: a discussion of the ethics of cloning a wooly mammoth or the humor behind Will Ferrell’s strange viral Old Milwaukee beer ads.
The web is also extremely useful in allowing dinner party debates and argument to achieve some semblance of closure.
Take, for example, a recent dinner party exchange about whether people who are virulently homophobic are more likely to be homosexual. In the past, this discussion would have turned largely on personal stories and well-known cases, but, with smart phones at the ready, it was possible to quickly check whether any psychological studies had been done on the matter.
And, indeed, there was research on precisely this topic. Here, for example, is an abstract from a fascinating 1996 study:
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.
Interesting stuff! Now, if you wouldn’t mind passing the mashed potatoes, that would be great . . .
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