The claim that homophobic people are in secret attracted to members of their own sex, though they refuse to admit as much, will receive support from a series of psychological studies to be published later this month.

According to research to be published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, scientists across New York, Essex and California have found evidence that gay men and lesbians remind homophobes of themselves, causing an aversive reaction and instilling fear. The study also claims that the root of the problem lies in the homophobic attitudes in which they were brought up as a child.

The study involved four different experiments, each using 160 students in the US and Germany, and measured differences between self-reports concerning sexuality compared to how the subjects reacted during a time-controlled task where they had to look at images and words associated with homo- or heterosexuality.

The second part of the experiment involved subject histories on family upbringing, after which they were invited to look at pictures of gay or straight couples. Then, levels of homophobia were measured both consciously and sub-consciously.

The authors of the study say that their findings might help explain why so much of bullying and hate crime is directed against LGBT people. Some homophobes who have not reconciled themselves to their true sexuality may feel the urge to hit out at gay people, who they fear might bring their repressed desires to the surface.