U. of Wisconsin study debunks 'gaydar'

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has released a new study that supposedly debunks the validity of “gaydar,” the so-called ability to detect a person’s sexual persuasions based solely on appearance.

According to Wisconsin Watchdog, the lead author of the study and an assistant scientist in the Department of Psychology, William Cox, explained that gaydar doesn’t actually exist and is instead a stereotyping mechanism. The study was published in the Journal of Sex Research.

"Most people think of stereotyping as inappropriate," Cox told the university’s news site. "But if you're not calling it 'stereotyping,' if you're giving it this other label and camouflaging it as 'gaydar,' it appears to be more socially and personally acceptable."

The researchers argued that previous studies supporting the validity of gaydar are inaccurate because the photos of people’s faces used to determine their sexuality varied in quality. The gays’ and lesbians’ photos were higher quality than the straight individuals’ used in the former studies, Cox’s research concluded.

Chris Barncard, the spokesperson for the university’s research communications, told Wisconsin Watchdog that “Cox conducted the research while serving as a paid assistant scientist in the university’s Department of Psychology, doing small projects while working on his dissertation.”

Barncard said no university money was used to conduct the research besides the use of school computers and work space. Cox, though, allegedly couldn’t remember who paid for the $30 to $50 for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk intellectual employment recruitment site, which helped him find the study’s 110 test subjects.

“The subjects made between 30 cents and 50 cents for testing their gaydar powers online,” said Barncard.

The term “gaydar” is more widely accepted than UW Madison may think; Gaydar.net, the self-proclaimed “premier gay dating site,” adopted the name.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BethanySalgado