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J Couns Psychol. 2016 Jan;63(1):67-75. doi: 10.1037/cou0000124. Epub 2015 Nov 16.

Beyond "born this way?" reconsidering sexual orientation beliefs and attitudes.

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Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Missouri-Columbia.


Previous research on heterosexuals' beliefs about sexual orientation (SO) has been limited in that it has generally examined heterosexuals' beliefs from an essentialist perspective. The recently developed Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale (SOBS; Arseneau, Grzanka, Miles, & Fassinger, 2013) assesses multifarious "lay beliefs" about SO from essentialist, social constructionist, and constructivist perspectives. This study used the SOBS to explore latent group-based patterns in endorsement of these beliefs in 2 samples of undergraduate students: a mixed-gender sample (n = 379) and an all-women sample (n = 266). While previous research has posited that essentialist beliefs about the innateness of SO predict positive attitudes toward sexual minorities, our research contributes to a growing body of scholarship that suggests that biological essentialism should be considered in the context of other beliefs. Using a person-centered analytic strategy, we found that that college students fell into distinct patterns of SO beliefs that are more different on beliefs about the homogeneity, discreteness, and informativeness of SO categories than on beliefs about the naturalness of SO. Individuals with higher levels of endorsement on all 4 SOBS subscales (a group we named multidimensional essentialism) and those who were highest in discreteness, homogeneity, and informativeness beliefs (i.e., high-DHI) reported higher levels of homonegativity when compared with those who were high only in naturalness beliefs. We discuss the implications of these findings for counseling and psychotherapy about SO, as well educational and social interventions. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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