William T. L. Cox, PhD
Assistant Scientist
Department of Psychology 
University of Wisconsin-Madisonwilliam.cox@wisc.edu
Curriculum Vitae
Research Statement

 Twitter: @ScienceCox
www.facebook.com/ScienceCox Facebook: ScienceCox
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/William_Cox6 ResearchGate
https://wisc.academia.edu/ScienceCox Academia.edu

My work focuses on understanding and undermining the broad reach of narrow thinking. Specifically, I study cultural, social, cognitive, and neural mechanisms that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice, and leverage basic science about those mechanisms to develop and refine interventions to reduce the expression of stereotyping and prejudice.

My amazing team of Research Assistants and I!

Article in Science Magazine

posted Jun 23, 2017, 1:46 PM by William Cox   [ updated Jun 23, 2017, 1:47 PM ]

Science Magazine interviewed Trish Devine and me about one of our major projects over the past 4 years, a collaboration with Patrick Forscher and Markus Brauer testing for race and gender biases in the NIH Grant Review process. 

Interview on an episode of Invisibilia on NPR

posted Jun 15, 2017, 2:42 PM by William Cox   [ updated Jun 15, 2017, 3:43 PM ]

An episode of Invisibilia on NPR included interviews with me and Trish Devine about lots of our recent work. The part with me is at about 35 minutes in, then Trish is after me.

Article in The Atlantic about my work

posted May 8, 2017, 7:23 AM by William Cox   [ updated May 13, 2017, 8:50 AM ]

This is a nice article that covers a lot of my work the last two years!


Invited Article in The Conversation

posted Mar 15, 2017, 3:55 AM by William Cox   [ updated Mar 15, 2017, 3:55 AM ]

The Conversation asked me to write a piece on my past work on gaydar and stereotyping: https://theconversation.com/debunking-the-gaydar-myth-73750 

New paper: Ecological Invalidity of Existing Gaydar Research: In-Lab Accuracy Translates to Real-World Inaccuracy: Response to Rule, Johnson, & Freeman (2016)

posted Feb 15, 2017, 9:22 AM by William Cox

Rule, Johnson, and Freeman replied to our 2016 paper on "gaydar" research, but failed to address our major arguments. Here is our invited reply, just out in JSR!

In recent years, several empirical studies have claimed to provide evidence in support of the popular folk notion that people possess “gaydar” that enables them to accurately identify who is gay or lesbian (Rule, Johnson, & Freeman, 2016). This conclusion is limited to artificial lab settings, however, and when translated to real-world settings this work itself provides evidence that people’s judgments about who is gay/lesbian are not pragmatically accurate. We also briefly review evidence related to the consequences of perpetuating the idea of gaydar (i.e., “the gaydar myth”). Although past claims about accurate orientation perception are misleading, the work that gave rise to those claims can nevertheless inform the literature in meaningful ways. We offer some recommendations for how the evidence in past “gaydar” research can be reappraised to inform our understanding of social perception and group similarities/differences.

New paper: Experimental Research on Shooter Bias: Ready (or Relevant) for Application in the Courtroom?

posted Dec 11, 2016, 5:35 AM by William Cox   [ updated Dec 11, 2016, 5:37 AM ]

Cox & Devine (2016), Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition

Police officers are charged with protecting the public, and they must make difficult life-or-death decisions in tense circumstances. High-profile instances of officers shooting innocent Black people led to a flurry of shooter bias research, which examines how race influences split-second shooting decisions. We give an overview of the evidence in this literature to date, to evaluate the robustness of the evidence related to shooter bias and police officers. The extant experimental evidence from police officer samples is mixed, and does not allow us to make any strong inferences about the role of race in officers’ shooting decisions. We then discuss whether the questions asked by shooter bias research are even relevant to the decisions jurors must make during cases of officer-involved shootings. 

Our paper on "gaydar" as an alternate term for stereotyping is now available via free open access, thanks to our wonderful editor and publisher

posted Sep 11, 2015, 4:07 PM by William Cox   [ updated Sep 11, 2015, 4:11 PM ]

Following the recent media attention for our article, Dr. Cynthia Graham, the editor in chief of JSR and action editor of our paper, asked the publisher, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, to make our paper open access for free, and they graciously agreed! That's a wonderful gesture in support of our work The world may now access it for free from the publisher, here: Inferences About Sexual Orientation: The Roles of Stereotypes, Faces, and The Gaydar Myth.

Also, tune in to catch me on Wisconsin Public Radio on Tuesday the 15th at 4:05 pm!

Press release and infographic for the gaydar paper

posted Sep 5, 2015, 5:45 AM by William Cox   [ updated Jan 3, 2017, 4:16 AM ]

The UW-Madison communications office put together this lovely press release for us: The science of stereotyping: Challenging the validity of ‘gaydar’

It actually discusses two papers. The first is our new paper in the Journal of Sex Research, which explores "gaydar" in a series of 5 studies. After the studies, this paper also lays out the logic for why, mathematically, it is unlikely that there will ever be an accurate gaydar process. The second paper demonstrates one way that stereotyping (i.e., "gaydar") can actually promote anti-gay aggression.

Also, my wonderful research assistant Ellie Poikonen put together an infographic to explain the basic findings of the paper in a simple, visually appealing way. You can download and share it in different formats, and also see details about the claims in the infographic, here


New article out: Inferences about sexual orientation: The role of stereotypes, faces, and the gaydar myth

posted Aug 7, 2015, 7:59 AM by William Cox

Inferences about sexual orientation: The role of stereotypes, faces, and the gaydar myth
William T. L. Cox, Patricia G. Devine, Alyssa A. Bischmann, and Janet S. Hyde
In Press, Journal of Sex Research

In the present work, we investigate the pop cultural idea that people have a sixth sense, called “gaydar,” to detect who is gay. We propose that “gaydar” is an alternate label for using stereotypes to infer orientation (e.g., inferring that fashionable men are gay). Another account, however, argues that people possess a facial perception process that enables them to identify sexual orientation from facial structure (Rule et al., 2008). We report five experiments testing these accounts. Participants made gay-or-straight judgments about fictional targets that were constructed using experimentally-manipulated stereotypic cues and real gay/straight people’s face cues. These studies revealed that orientation is not visible from the face—purportedly “face- based” gaydar arises from a third-variable confound. People do, however, readily infer orientation from stereotypic attributes (e.g., fashion, career). Furthermore, the folk concept of gaydar serves as a legitimizing myth: Compared to a control group, people stereotyped more when led to believe in gaydar, whereas people stereotyped less when told gaydar is an alternate label for stereotyping. Discussion focuses on the implications of the gaydar myth and why, contrary to some prior claims, stereotyping is highly unlikely to result in accurate judgments about orientation.

New article released in PLoS ONE

posted May 7, 2015, 4:49 AM by William Cox   [ updated Jul 24, 2015, 9:25 AM ]

Stereotypes Possess Heterogeneous Directionality: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration of Stereotype Structure and Content 
    Cox & Devine (2015)

We advance a theory-driven approach to stereotype structure, informed by connectionist theories of cognition. Whereas traditional models define or tacitly assume that stereotypes possess inherently Group → Attribute activation directionality (e.g., Black activates criminal), our model predicts heterogeneous stereotype directionality. Alongside the classically studied Group → Attribute stereotypes, some stereotypes should be bidirectional (i.e., Group ⇄ Attribute) and others should have Attribute → Group unidirectionality (e.g., fashionableactivates gay). We tested this prediction in several large-scale studies with human participants (NCombined = 4,817), assessing stereotypic inferences among various groups and attributes. Supporting predictions, we found heterogeneous directionality both among the stereotype links related to a given social group and also between the links of different social groups. These efforts yield rich datasets that map the networks of stereotype links related to several social groups. We make these datasets publicly available, enabling other researchers to explore a number of questions related to stereotypes and stereotyping. Stereotype directionality is an understudied feature of stereotypes and stereotyping with widespread implications for the development, measurement, maintenance, expression, and change of stereotypes, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.
  • Full text freely available here at PLoS ONE, and here as a PDF.
  • Data and experimental materials available here.
  • Interactive Stereotype Directionality Map available here.
Below, see a visualization of some of the data!

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