William T. L. Cox, PhD

Assistant Scientist

Department of Psychology

University of Wisconsin-Madison


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

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.

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!

SPSP 2015 Poster: Semi-Supervised Stereotyping: Untested Stereotypic Assumptions Reinforce Stereotypes As Much As Externally Confirmed Stereotypic Assumptions

posted Feb 22, 2015, 7:22 AM by William Cox   [ updated Jul 24, 2015, 9:26 AM ]

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"

posted Jul 23, 2014, 9:34 AM by William Cox   [ updated Jul 24, 2015, 9:27 AM ]

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.

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