Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version


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Morales Knight, L. F. (2012). Dimensions of individuals' judgements about sexual attraction, romantic attachment, and sexual orientation (Doctoral dissertation). University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Debra A. Hope. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Luis F. Morales Knight


Despite 150 years of scientific interest in sexual orientation, contemporary investigators grapple with a number of serious difficulties. A precise, unified definition of sexual orientation appropriate for scientific use continues to elude researchers, most likely because there is still no single coherent theory of sexual orientation. This lack impedes research into the measurement of sexual orientation. Existing measurements of sexual orientation rely on partial or incompletely empirical research. The present study identified promising avenues for development of credible definitions, theories, and measurements of sexual orientation: (a) mate-selection tasks; (b) the idea that bisexually-identified individuals place a lower priority on partner gender in mate-selection decisions; (c) using “gender diagnosticity”—i.e., measures that differentiate between men and women, using an empirical criterion—to investigate the connections between gender-role orientation, sexual orientation, and mate selection; (d) distinguishing between sexual desire and pair bonding; (e) a cross-category theory of sexual orientation identity.

The present study was conducted via an Internet survey. Participants were 726 participants with varying gender and sexual orientation identities. A large number of participants espoused nontraditional gender and sexual orientation identities. Results indicated strong support for distinguishing between sexual desire and pair bonding, in that different decision rules for mate selection obtained in each, and for understanding bisexuality as involving lower prioritization of partner gender. The utility of mate-selection tasks was also supported. The use of gender diagnosticity was partly supported, in that a relationship between adult gender typicality and sexual orientation was found, but further investigation is needed to determine appropriate measures as vehicles for this approach. Conceptualizations of sexual orientation were observed to vary with gender and sexual orientation identity categories, though there was also substantial agreement across categories. The cross-category theory of sexual orientation was partially supported in that heterosexually-identified participants who endorsed some same-sex sexuality appeared to be actively exploring their sexual orientation identity. The results highlighted the fractal and dynamic complexity and interrelationship of gender and sexual orientation, and the need to understand nontraditional gender and sexual orientation identities.

Advisor: Debra A. Hope