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Unlike gender, race, or ethnicity, sexual orientation is not necessarily readily identifiable. Because of this, the biases that are associated with prejudice towards members of other groups might not be initially applied to gay men and lesbians. The current work tests whether timing of disclosure of sexual orientation might influence how observers form first impressions of a target individual. Participants (n = 177) watched a video of two male confederates having a brief interaction. Either at the beginning or the end of this interaction, one of the confederates self-identified as gay or straight. Participants in all four conditions then completed several measures assessing attitudes toward the target individual, memory for information disclosed in the interaction, and general attitudes toward homosexuality. Target sexual orientation and timing of disclosure interacted to influence impression formation. Identifying as gay early rather than late in the interaction lead to a more negative impression of the target and an increased perception of the target as possessing more stereotypically gay traits. Further, when the target identified as gay early in the interaction, participants mistakenly recalled him reporting engaging in more stereotype congruent behaviors. These results suggest a primacy effect for group categorization such that greater levels of bias will occur when group categorization is possible prior to the receipt of individuating information. Implications of these findings for decisions to disclose sexual orientation are discussed. Future research will examine the optimal timing of disclosure.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
E. Ashby Plant, Professor Directing Thesis; Jon Maner, Committee Member; Janet Kistner, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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