White Americans' Genetic Lay Theories of Race Differences and Sexual Orientation: Their Relationship with Prejudice toward Blacks, and Gay Men and Lesbians

Toby Epstein Jayaratne, Oscar Ybarra, Jane P. Sheldon, Tony N. Brown, Merle Feldbaum, Carla A. Pfeffer, Elizabeth M. Petty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the relationship between White Americans' genetic explanations, conceptualized as genetic lay theories, for perceived racial differences and for sexual orientation, and attitudes toward Blacks, and gay men and lesbians, respectively. Considering contrasting public discourse surrounding race and sexual orientation, we predicted that genetic lay theories would be associated with greater prejudice toward Blacks, but less prejudice toward gay men and lesbians. The findings, based on a representative sample of 600 White Americans, were consistent with expectations. Results are discussed in relation to the literature on essentialism and implicit theories of the malleability of traits. The present research broadens our view of lay theories by showing how they support either prejudice or tolerance, depending on the target group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetic explanations
  • Lay theories
  • Race
  • Sexual orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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