Can Learning That Sexual Orientation Is Continuous or Fluid Change How People Report Their Sexual Orientation?

Morandini, J. (University of Sydney), Dacosta, L. (University of Sydney), Dar-Nimrod, I. (University of Sydney)

A series of studies examined whether heterosexual individuals’ perceptions of their own sexual orientation could be influenced experimentally by manipulating their knowledge of the nature of sexual orientation. Participants read summaries describing evidence for sexual orientation existing on a continuum versus in discrete categories, and sexual orientation as fluid versus stable across the life-course and responded to various questions about their sexual-orientation. After exposure to fluid or continuous manipulations, heterosexual participants were up to five times more likely than controls to rate themselves as non-exclusively heterosexual. Additionally, those who read the continuous account reported being more uncertain of their sexual orientation and more willing to engage in same-sex sexual experiences in the future, than those in control. These results suggest that one’s perception of their own sexual orientation is somewhat malleable and can be affected by informational accounts alone. These findings may offer promising new directions for prejudice-reduction initiatives.

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Gender and Inequality