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Grzanka Publishes Papers on Sexual Orientation Beliefs and Impacts

Grzanka Publishes Papers on Sexual Orientation Beliefs and Impacts


Patrick Grzanka, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, published two papers exploring how people’s beliefs about sexual orientation influences their worldviews.

The first paper, titled “Is Essentialism Essential? Reducing Homonegative Prejudice by Targeting Diverse Sexual Orientation Beliefs,” is published in one of the top journals of sexuality studies, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The second paper, titled “Do Beliefs about Sexual Orientation Predict Voting Behavior? Results from the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” is published in the American Psychology Association’s journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.

In the first paper, UT researchers focused on the origins of sexual orientations, conducting an online experiment to expose people to a range of scientific arguments about sexuality. This study was first author and graduate student Kevin Fry’s master’s thesis, and it was co-authored by Joe Miles, associate professor of psychology, and graduate student Elliott DeVore.

“What we take away from this study both underscores existing findings by psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists and extends that work by offering an experimental perspective to help isolate what might drive the change in attitudes,” Grzanka said. “The implications of this work are that teaching about the complexity of sexuality, particularly with regard to the socially constructed nature of sexual orientation categories, might be more efficacious for prejudice reduction than simply emphasizing that ‘gay people are born that way.’”

In the second study, researchers focused on the impacts sexual orientation beliefs have on voting.

“One might expect more liberal voters to believe that gay people are born this way and more conservative voters to believe that being gay is a choice,” he said. “We found that, in fact, these beliefs did not distinguish young voters in the 2016 presidential election.”

“Together, both papers represent important advances in the study of beliefs about sexual orientation,” he said. “Both of these studies extend our prior findings that suggest ‘born this way’ ideology, which has in recent years become central to sexual minority rights agendas and is increasingly the dominant lens through which Americans view sexual orientation, may be less consequential than one might expect.”

Co-authors on the second paper include psychology graduate student Elliot Spengler, Katharine Zeiders and Russell Toomey from the University of Arizona, and Lindsay Hoyt from Fordham University.

The APA featured Grzanka and Spengler’s paper, “Do Beliefs about Sexual Orientation Predict Voting Behavior?” in the August edition of their APA Journals Article Spotlight, a summary of recent APA Journal articles.

-By Kelly Alley

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