Subtle perceptions of male sexual orientation influence occupational opportunities.



Rule NO, Bjornsdottir RT, Tskhay KO & Ambady N (2016) Subtle perceptions of male sexual orientation influence occupational opportunities.. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101 (12), pp. 1687-1704.

Theories linking the literatures on stereotyping and human resource management have proposed that individuals may enjoy greater success obtaining jobs congruent with stereotypes about their social categories or traits. Here, we explored such effects for a detectable, but not obvious, social group distinction: male sexual orientation. Bridging previous work on prejudice and occupational success with that on social perception, we found that perceivers rated gay and straight men as more suited to professions consistent with stereotypes about their groups (nurses, pediatricians, and English teachers vs. engineers, managers, surgeons, and math teachers) from mere photos of their faces. Notably, distinct evaluations of the gay and straight men emerged based on perceptions of their faces with no explicit indication of sexual orientation. Neither perceivers’ expertise with hiring decisions nor diagnostic information about the targets eliminated these biases, but encouraging fair decisions did contribute to partly ameliorating the differences. Mediation analysis further showed that perceptions of the targets’ sexual orientations and facial affect accounted for these effects. Individuals may therefore infer characteristics about individuals’ group memberships from their faces and use this information in a way that meaningfully influences evaluations of their suitability for particular jobs.

sexual orientation, Role Congruity Theory, Lack of Fit Model, nonverbal behavior, person perception

Journal of Applied Psychology: Volume 101, Issue 12

FundersSocial Sciences and Humanities Research Council and National Science Foundation
Publication date31/12/2016
Publication date online31/12/2016
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association (APA)

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Dr Thora Bjornsdottir

Dr Thora Bjornsdottir

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology