Skip to comments.UW-Madison ‘gaydar’ study raises questions, like, why?
Posted on 09/15/2015 7:25:41 AM PDT by Sopater
MADISON, Wisconsin Among the path-blazing research that University of Wisconsin-Madison administration is ardently defending these days is a study that has supposedly debunked the power of Gaydar.
Two questions jump out: Why do we need a study on Gaydar the purported ability to infer whether people are gay or straight based on their appearance and how much money were taxpayers forced to fork over for such research?
The answer to the second question, at least according to UW-Madison, is very little. Which raises again the broad question: What kind of psychological research are we getting from our institutions of higher education?
The study, recently published in the Journal of Sex Research, challenges the gaydar myth, according to a UW-Madison press release.
William Cox, lead author of the study, says gaydar isnt accurate and is actually a harmful form of stereotyping.
Most people think of stereotyping as inappropriate, Cox says. But if youre not calling it stereotyping, if youre giving it this other label and camouflaging it as gaydar, it appears to be more socially and personally acceptable, Cox said in the university release.
The release goes on to state that Cox and his team questioned the validity of previous research that found gaydar to be a real skill.
But Cox really didnt have a team.
He completed the study a year or two ago while he was working on his Ph.D., Chris Barncard, spokesman for the universitys research communications, told Wisconsin Watchdog.
According to the release, Cox authored the paper with professors Patricia Devine and Janet Hyde and UW-Madison graduate Alyssa Bischmann.
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Barncard said Cox conducted the research while serving as a paid assistant scientist in the universitys Department of Psychology, doing small projects while working on his dissertation.
Other than making use of university computers and using office space in the psychology department, Barncard said no university money was spent on the project. But Barncard said Cox couldnt remember precisely who paid the $30 to $50 to recruit the 110 experiment subjects in Amazon.coms online Mechanical Turk intellectual employment recruitment site.
As Princeton University notes, the service has become an increasingly popular way for researchers to conduct online experiments. Anyone with access to the Internet can use the service as a way to draw respondents for any type of web-based survey or experiment. Its a relatively low-cost way to engage a diverse set of respondents in a short period of time.
Its Craigslist-style, Barncard said. There are small things people can do to make a little extra cash. Little is the operative term. Barncard said the subjects made between 30 cents and 50 cents for testing their gaydar powers online.
Social science research has had a rough go of it in recent years, with a long list of studies coming under fire for their methodology and accuracy.
Last month, a report found more than half of the findings in 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals fell apart when retested.
The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work, noted the New York Times, which had, like many other prominent publications, reported some of the research as fact. Their conclusions have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.
The new analysis, called the Reproducibility Project, found no evidence of fraud or that any original study was definitively false. Rather, it concluded that the evidence for most published findings was not nearly as strong as originally claimed, the Times reported.
Social scientists like Andrew Gelman have criticized use of such online subject resources as Mechanical Turk. Gelman, professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University, wrote a piece for the Washington Post headlined, Dont trust the Turk, in which he linked to Dan Kahans blog raising questions about the trustworthiness of samples derived from Mechanical Turk.
Wisconsin mainstream media outlets reported the UW-Madison study as if it were incontrovertible fact.
Interestingly, Coxs gaydar study raised concerns about previous research in the field, citing differences in the quality of the photos used for gay and straight people in the study.
The gay men and lesbians, according to Coxs studies, had higher quality pictures than their straight counterparts, the UW-Madison press release stated. When researchers controlled for differences in photo quality, participants were unable to tell who was gay and straight.
While UW-Madison researchers may find the concept of gaydar offensive, the term doesnt seem to bother the operators of Gaydar, which bills itself as The Premier Gay Dating Site. Home To Millions of Men.
Now that our culture is completely fabulous our Gaydars are being swamped.
*shrug* after years of living in Hollywood and the SF Bay area, I have a very well developed gaydar.
I can spot ‘em, but mostly I just don’t care. It’s not like we’re competing for the same resources!
From the Inside Flap
Gaydar is a must-have for those thousands (maybe millions) of hapless gay men and unwary straight women who?ve encountered such embarrassing revelatory moments as, ?Oh, I thought you were . . .? or ?Oh, I didn?t know you were . . .? or the ever-popular ?But isn?t he married?!? and so on.
According to author Donald F. Reuter, gaydar is the telepathic sixth sense that only gay men?and the occasional ultra-savvy straight person?seem to possess. But ultimately, its main function is to help gay men recognize one another in situations involving the general straight population.
Beautifully illustrated throughout by the author, Gaydar is divided into ten gay sections, including everything from gayspeak to gaywork to gayhouse to gaysport, and much more. Gaydar takes a playful look at the ins and outs of gay life while serving as an indispensable guide to shopping, traveling, nightclubbing, dining, working, and what it means to be ?part of the team.?
If you?re the average straight reader, don?t expect miracles, but if you?re willing, this book will help you discover innate perceptive skills long buried in the gay parts of your mind and body. Now, if you?re gay, you?ll be certain to find Gaydar the perfect companion for honing your gaydar sensors, rediscovering old tricks?and even finding some new ones. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
UW Madison conducts study on “gaydar”. Why?
FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, thooois Wisconsin interest ping list.
I think the study failed to properly define its terms. I’ve always heard ‘gaydar’ used in context of social interactive behavior (and haven’t heard it used much even then). Thinking you can tell who is homosexual from a portrait type photo seems unlikely.
A still photo would be unlikely to bear the clues. It’s actions that bear the clues.
One look at Shepherd Smith or David Hyde Pierce and we’re not going to suspect? And “suspect” is the operative term. Like a blip on a Radar screen, Gaydar only tells you something’s there that’s a little bit queer.
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