Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 173–187 | Cite as

Sex Differences and Sexual Orientation Differences in Personality: Findings from the BBC Internet Survey

  • Richard A. LippaEmail author


Analyzing a large international data set generated by a BBC Internet survey, I examined sex differences and sexual orientation differences in six personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, disagreeable assertiveness, masculine versus feminine occupational preferences (MF-Occ), and self-ascribed masculinity-femininity (Self-MF). Consistent with previous research, sex differences and sexual orientation differences were largest for MF-Occ and for Self-MF. In general, heterosexual-homosexual differences mirrored sex differences in personality, with gay men shifted in female-typical and lesbians in male-typical directions. Bisexual men scored intermediate between heterosexual and gay men on MF-Occ; however, they were slightly more feminine than gay men on Self-MF. Bisexual women scored intermediate between heterosexual women and lesbians on both MF-Occ and Self-MF. Sex differences and sexual orientation differences in MF-Occ, Self-MF, and other personality traits were consistent across five nations/world regions (the UK, USA, Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and Western Europe), thereby suggesting a biological component to these differences.


Sexual orientation Sex differences Personality Masculinity–femininity Cross-cultural research 


  1. Bailey, J. M., Kim, P. Y., Hills, A., & Linsenmeier, J. A. W. (2000). Butch, femme, or straight acting? Partner preferences in gay men and lesbians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 960–973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31, 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bem, D. J. (1996). Exotic becomes erotic: A developmental theory of sexual orientation. Psychological Review, 103, 320–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bem, D. J. (2000). Exotic becomes erotic: Interpreting the biological correlates of sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 531–548.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cattell, R. B., Eber, H. W., Tatsuoka, M. M. (1970). Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF). Champaign, IL: IPAT.Google Scholar
  6. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO PI-R professional manual: Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO PI-R) and NEO five-factor inventory (NEO-FFI). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  7. Costa, P. T., Terracciano, A., & McCrae, R. R. (2001). Gender differences in personality across cultures: Robust and surprising results. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 322–331.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Diekman, A. B. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes & H. M Trautner (Eds.), The developmental social psychology of gender (pp. 123–174). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Ellis, L., & Ames, M. A. (1987). Neurohormonal functioning and sexual orientation: A theory of homosexuality–heterosexuality. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 233–258.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Feingold, A. (1994). Gender differences in personality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 429–456.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hyde, J. S. (2006). Gender similarities still rule. American Psychologist, 61, 641–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The big five taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  13. Kagan, J. (1964). Acquisition and significance of sex-typing and sex-role identity. In M. L. Hoffman & L. W. Hoffman (Eds.), Review of child development research (Vol. 1, pp. 137–167). New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Lippa, R. (1998). Gender-related individual difference and the structure of vocational interests: The importance of the “People-Things” dimension. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 996–1009.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lippa, R. A. (2005a). Gender, nature, and nurture (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  16. Lippa, R. A. (2005b). Sexual orientation and personality. Annual Review of Sex Research, 16, 119–153.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Lippa, R. A. (2006). The gender reality hypothesis. American Psychologist, 61, 639–640.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lippa, R. A. (2007). Men’s and women’s extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and gender-related occupational preferences across 53 nations: Probing biological and cultural contributions to sex differences in personality. Unpublished manuscript. California State University, Fullerton, CA.Google Scholar
  19. Lippa, R., & Connelly, S. C. (1990). Gender diagnosticity: A new Bayesian approach to gender-related individual differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1051–1065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674–697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Patterson, C. A. (1997). Personality correlates of male sexual orientation and recalled childhood sex-typed behaviors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, American University, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  22. Pillard, R. C. (1991). Masculinity and femininity in homosexuality: “Inversion” revisited. In: J. C. Gonsiorek & J. D. Weinrich (Eds.), Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy (pp. 32–43). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Prediger, D. J. (1982). Dimensions underlying Holland’s hexagon: Missing link between interests and occupations? Journal of Vocational Behavior, 21, 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Reimers, S. (2007). The BBC Internet study: General methodology. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 147–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rieger, G., Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2005). Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men. Psychological Science, 16, 579–584.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schmitt, D. P., & Buss, D. M. (2000). Sexual dimensions of person description: Beyond or subsumed by the Big Five? Journal of Research in Personality, 34, 141–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Twenge, J. M. (2001). Changes in women’s assertiveness in response to status and role: A cross-temporal meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 133–145.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tracey, T. J. G., & Rounds, J. (1993). Evaluating Holland’s and Gati’s vocational interest models: A structural meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 229–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wilson, G., & Rahman, Q. (2005). Born gay: The psychobiology of sex orientation. London: Peter Owen Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCalifornia State UniversityFullertonUSA

Personalised recommendations