“Gaydar” — the purported ability to infer whether people are gay or straight based on their appearance — seemed to get a scientific boost from a 2008 study that concluded people could accurately guess someone’s sexual orientation based on photographs of their faces. In a new paper researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison challenge what they call “the gaydar myth.” William Cox, an assistant scientist in the Department of Psychology and the lead author, says gaydar isn’t accurate and is actually a harmful form of stereotyping.
Stereotypes about people can affect how we look at a person, but sometimes it causes other problems. Gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes will not undermine women’s math performance — but instead motivate them to perform better.