Beyond "Born This Way?" Reconsidering Sexual Orientation Beliefs and Attitudes

Patrick R. Grzanka, Katharine H. Zeiders, Joseph R. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Homonegativity
  • Latent profile analysis
  • Lay beliefs
  • LGBT issues
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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