Date of Award

Winter 1-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



How do people determine another individual’s sexual orientation? As sexuality often does not have visible cues, people must often rely on how others identify and behave. However, sexual identity and behavior can often conflict (Pathela et al., 2006; Ross et al., 2003). In Study 1, I examined whether participants perceived individuals to be straight, gay, or bisexual when identity and behavior conflicted (e.g., a man who identifies as “straight” but had sex with other men). Study 2 examined how perceptions were affected by the characteristics of the target and their behavior and Study 3 examined how perception was related to characteristics of the perceiver. I find that when information conflicts, participants were highly likely to perceive individuals as bisexual despite how the individuals identified. In addition, I find differences in perception based on characteristics of the target (e.g., men were more likely to be perceived as gay than bisexual), as well as characteristics of the perceiver (e.g., anti-bisexual prejudice predicted higher reliance on behavior rather than identity in categorization). These findings illustrate how perceptions of sexuality are multiply determined by characteristics of the target and perceiver.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Calvin Lai

Committee Members

Clara Wilkins, Alan Lambert