A new study is the final nail in the coffin for “gaydar,” the so-called ability to determine someone’s sexual orientation just by looking. UW-Madison Researchers proved that the snap judgments are harmful stereotypes in a new paper published in the Journal of Sexual Research. (Just in case you needed psychology professors to tell you not to make judgments about people’s sexuality.) If that’s not enough for you, gaydar is often wrong. So stop trying!
Lead author William Cox explains the reason why gaydar fails with this confusing gay word problem: “Imagine that 100 percent of gay men wear pink shirts all the time, and 10 percent of straight men wear pink shirts all the time. Even though all gay men wear pink shirts, there would still be twice as many straight men wearing pink shirts. So, even in this extreme example, people who rely on pink shirts as a stereotypic cue to assume men are gay will be wrong two-thirds of the time.” Get it? The point is, gaydar is bad and useless.
The team tested study participants’ idea of gaydar by challenging the definitions. One group was told that gaydar is real, another was told it is stereotyping, and the third got no definition. The group that was told gaydar is real bought into their pre-existing stereotypes and were more likely to assume men were gay based on facts about them like “he likes shopping.”
The team has also done research into that especially heinous group of people “who were personally very prejudiced, but they didn’t want other people to think they were prejudiced.” They are continuing their research in order to counteract the gaydar myth and expose it as harmful.
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