Department of Psychology
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Understanding and undermining the mechanisms that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice at multiple levels, from societal mechanisms like cultural stories and myths, through basic neural mechanisms involving how information is processed and stored by the brain.
William T. L. Cox
Our paper on "gaydar" as an alternate term for stereotyping is now available via free open access, thanks to our wonderful editor and publisher
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!
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
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.
SPSP 2015 Poster: Semi-Supervised Stereotyping: Untested Stereotypic Assumptions Reinforce Stereotypes As Much As Externally Confirmed Stereotypic Assumptions
Check out my poster at SPSP this Saturday! PDF copy attached.
Poster Session F - Stereotyping/Prejudice
Saturday, February 28, 2015
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM - William Cox; Patricia Devine
People presume their untested stereotypic assumptions are correct, which reinforces their stereotypes in the absence of actual evidence. In our study, participants received No Feedback, Stereotype-Confirming Feedback, or Stereotype-Disconfirming Feedback on a series of stereotypic judgments. Untested assumptions reinforced stereotypes as much as stereotypic judgments that were actually confirmed.
My latest paper, "Toward a Comprehensive Understanding of Officers’ Shooting Decisions: No Simple Answers to This Complex Problem"
Out today in Basic and Applied Social Psychology - Toward a Comprehensive Understanding of Officers’ Shooting Decisions: No Simple Answers to This Complex Problem
William T. L. Cox, Patricia G. Devine, E. Ashby Plant, & Lauri L. Schwartz (2014)
Experimental Materials and Data Files
Police officers make life-or-death shooting decisions in complex situations under extreme time pressure. If officers make a mistake, there are dire consequences—they could kill an innocent or be killed themselves. In contrast to prior work’s near-exclusive focus on suspect race, the present study examined features of methodology, officers, suspects, and neighborhoods that may affect officers’ shooting decisions. Empirical exploration of officers’ shooting decisions and mistakes is still in its infancy, and given the seriousness and importance of this phenomenon—and the potential for this research to inform policy decisions—additional research is needed.
SPSP 2014 Poster - Consequences of Stereotyping to Infer Group Membership: Stereotype Directionality, Evasion of Social Pressures, and Resistance to Stereotype Change.
Here is my poster from SPSP 2014. It presents a large portion of my research. SPSP 2014 Poster.
Four studies explored stereotyping to infer group membership (e.g., inferring that a fashionable man is gay) and its consequences. Study 1 showed that people reliably and predominantly use stereotypic traits (e.g., fashion) to infer that men are gay, and cannot identify who is gay from the face (cf. Rule et al., 2008). Study 2 showed that these gay stereotypes (e.g., Fashionable-->Gay) have different associative architecture than racial stereotypes (e.g., Black-->Athletic) because they are activated in a different direction (i.e., Attribute-->Group vs. Group-->Attribute). In Study 3, private stereotypic inferences about group membership allowed prejudicial behavior (i.e., giving painful electric shocks) to evade social pressures that oppose prejudice by providing “plausible deniability” for the behavior. Study 4 showed that counterstereotypic exemplars (e.g., fashionable straight men) are often miscategorized and thus ironically reinforce stereotypes, rather than weakening them. This work has implications for the development, reinforcement, prevention, change, and regulation of stereotyping and prejudice, and also highlights some key measurement issues for stereotyping and prejudice research.
I presented some of my recent work on The Gaydar Myth in a Data Blitz format. Here is the transcript of that talk, if you are interested! The Gaydar Myth - Data Blitz
William T. L. Cox and Patricia G. Devine (In Press)
This paper reports a study demonstrating that inferring group membership from a stereotype provides “plausible deniability” for prejudice-based aggression, allowing people to evade external condemnations against prejudice.
Participants administered painful electric shocks to an unseen male opponent who was either explicitly labeled gay or stereotypically implied to be gay. Identifying the opponent with a gay-stereotypic attribute produced a situation in which the target’s group status was privately inferred but plausibly deniable to others. Testing the plausible deniability hypothesis, we examined aggression levels as a function of internal (personal) and external (social) motivation to respond without prejudice. Whether plausible deniability was present or absent, participants high in internal motivation aggressed little and participants low in both internal and external motivation aggressed at high levels. The behavior of low internal, high external motivation participants, however, depended upon experimental condition. They aggressed at low levels when others could plausibly attribute their behavior to prejudice and at high levels when the situation granted plausible deniability. We discuss both obstacles to and potential avenues for prejudice reduction efforts.