A research team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked into the myth surrounding "gaydar" and concluded that not only is it inexistent, it also perpetuates a harmful stereotype. In a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, the experts said that it's not easy to tell a person's sexual orientation based on stereotypes and pre-conceived notions.
"Imagine that 100 percent of gay men wear pink shirts all the time, and 10 percent of straight men wear pink shirts all the time. Even though all gay men wear pink shirts, there would still be twice as many straight men wearing pink shirts. So, even in this extreme example, people who rely on pink shirts as a stereotypic cue to assume men are gay will be wrong two-thirds of the time," said William Cox, a psychologist and one of the study authors, via a press release.
Further, Cox and his team said that while the concept of gaydar may be fun, it's actually perpetuating an inappropriate stereotype.
His team conducted two types of experiments. The first involved manipulating photos to show to the study participants. Cox noted that in most cases, photos depicting gay and lesbians are of higher quality than photos with straight people. By manipulating the quality of photos, the participants were not able to determine which photo depicted gay or straight people.
In the second experiment, researchers divided participants in three separate groups. In one group, the scientist told them that the gaydar concept is true, while in another group the scientist told them that it's a stereotype. The third group was given no information about gaydar. The experiment revealed that those who were told that gaydar exists were more than likely to uphold the stereotype.
"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," Cox said and reiterated that the concept promotes "prejudice and discrimination - even aggression."
The new study challenges a previous study that pointed out the accuracy of gaydars at 80 percent.