A survey was conducted to answer a few of the questions mentioned above. The survey was administered among 12 people, two of whom are homosexual and 4 of them who are homophobic. Based on the results all the people surveyed, except one person, had heard of the word Gay-Dar and roughly knew its meaning. This goes to show that the word does have quite a wide range of popularity. However, keep in mind that the sample was not randomly selected, but given the fact that the word finds over 100,000 matches on Google, it is safe to assume the word is quite well known.
Most people who have heard of the word have heard it from a friend, co-worker, or family member. The term Gay-Dar spreads most commonly by word of mouth. Almost all of the people surveyed also thought the word was a “negative” word. The meaning that people attached to the word was not a polite one. One example given as the definition for where the person heard the word from and what it meant was: “cant remember. it means my ass is in danger from a fag hahhah”. So, do people believe in this word to really protect them from homosexuals, is it just immature entertainment, or is it something else?
Most people surveyed believed they could spot a homosexual person with an average of approximately 59%. Two of the participants who responded to the survey were homosexuals and they gave some of the most descriptive responses and were very clear in their answers. Yet, the two homosexual participants believe they had the ability to use a Gay-Dar. In fact, they believed they could guess correctly more than the heterosexuals could.
With reference to the question, “Can you spot a homosexual and if you can, what percentage of the time would you be correct?”. The two homosexual participants responded 100% and 70% respectively, which were among the highest estimates made. This shows that the belief is not only shared among heterosexuals, but also homosexuals. This result was quite surprising and difficult to explain. The most probable cause may be attributed to the fact that people think they know their own kind more than anyone else does.
It also seemed that people who thought they had a great ability to spot homosexuals, were not pleased by their poor results on the on-line test. They attributed it to the fact that the test was not very fair. The majority of these people blamed the results on the fact that they only had pictures to judge from. They claimed that if they were able to interact with the person, their Gay-Dar would have been much more accurate.
One person made a good point; they claimed that the whole idea of a Gay-Dar was to detect when a homosexual was close to them, not when someone in a picture was a homosexual. Unfortunately, it was not within the scope of this survey to remedy this situation. On the other hand, people who ranked close to or better than their estimated percentages in the on-line Gay-Dar game thought the game was fair.
The most common way to spot a homosexual male or female seemed to be their actions and speech patterns, along with the way they dressed and moved. People seem to place a heavy emphasis on things we normally stereotype. People claimed that homosexual males speak differently, dress nicer, cleaner and move in more feminine ways. Homosexual females can be spotted by mainly by their appearance. One of the most common factors mentioned was short hair, masculine actions and speech patterns. It seemed that the ability took advantage of mainly two senses; the sense of sight and the sense of hearing.
Given these results the survey did answer a few of the concerns about the belief, but not clearly enough to draw a concise conclusion from. Popular press piece and related discussion The piece that was most relevant to this discussion was a piece that was done by ABC News. They wrote an article that discusses the beliefs of people with regards to the Gay-Dar. The research was verified by Northwestern University psychology professor Michael Bailey. In this research they had dozens of people, including a deaf woman, interact with 10 men in a social atmosphere. During this interaction the participants were not allowed to ask any questions that related in any way to the 10 men’s sexuality.
They were told that 5 of the men were heterosexual and 5 were homosexual and were asked to discern which ones were homosexuals. At the end of the experiment, they were asked to explain their decisions and why they made them. They were also asked to relay what cues led them towards their decisions. This research had quite a few similarities to the survey that was conducted, but also some differences. The participants in this research did not place as much emphasis on masculine and feminine behavioural traits amongst homosexuals as did the people in the survey. Since this experiment had more participants the results were also more spread out. They had people mention that homosexual men have higher eyebrows. This is something that was never mentioned in the survey.
However, there were some definite similarities. All the participants seem to place heavy emphasis on speech patterns and speech styles. They also seem to believe that homosexuals tend to have a “cleaner” appearance. Also during their experiments, the homosexual participants seemed to fair better at spotting the homosexual males than did the heterosexual participants. The homosexual participants claimed that they had to train their Gay-Dar’s in order to spot other homosexuals. Almost like a skill they use to find a partner; the better the skill the better their chance to find a partner.
Some interesting facts were also mentioned about celebrities that have been “in the closet” for years and have managed to fool the general public. Astonishing people when they finally decided to “come out of the closet”. This only goes to show that the Gay-Dar is definitely not perfect. Nonetheless, in their experiment, the participants were able to spot 60% of the homosexuals. This is a better than chance result and so, Michael Bailey claims that the Gay-Dar definitely exists and that further research must be done to understanding this behaviour.
Michael Bailey also makes claims that in his other experiments, he has consistently attained results of approximately 70% of the participants positively identifying the homosexual males. Then again, the details to his experiment are not available. Although, given the fact that he is a university professor is a good indication of the fact that his experiments are conducted properly. On the most part, the results of this experiment agree with the results of the survey that was done. This is a good indicator that the results attained from the survey do represent the general public and make it easier to make an assessment based on these results.
Discussion of relevant cognitive factors The three cognitive factors that are most relevant to this essay are the following: The tendency to seek confirmatory information, the problem of hidden or absent data, and focused and unfocused expectations. The tendency to seek confirmatory information is when a person attempts to gather conforming evidence rather than evaluate the information properly. According to Thomas Gilovich, it occurs when “people tend to seek out information that would potentially confirm the belief, over information that might disconfirm it”
Based on the information gathered thus far, it seems that the problem of seeking confirmatory information plagues people when it comes to deciding whether they have a Gay-Dar or not. When looking through a website, the creator of the website has a poll on who thinks they have a Gay-Dar. If a person believes they have the ability to use their Gay-Dar, they simply submit that answer to the website and the site keeps track of the number of people who have said yes. On the other hand, there is no option to say “no”. It is quite clear that in this case the website creator is not concerned with disconfirming information.
Another example would be a personal experience. When someone thinks their Gay-Dar has spotted a homosexual person, they immediately seem to seek confirmatory information from a friend. For example, “Did you see that gay guy over there?” However, when the response is anything other than a positive or confirmatory one, the person is immediately on the defensive and begins to state why they believe the other person is in fact a homosexual. The problem of hidden or absent data, occurs when a person makes some kind of assumption based on a belief they might have. Except that they never really have the information or may be missing a piece of the information that may prove their assumption to be false.
Obviously, a majority of the time that someone makes the assumption or accusation towards another person being a homosexual, due to their Gay-Dar using ability, they never usually find out whether they are wrong or right. Because, usually the assumption is made and presumed to be correct, since the enquiry is never directly posed to the individual in question. This type of absent data makes it almost impossible to truly judge the validity of the Gay-Dar and thus adds to the belief that the Gay-Dar must be working properly.
Lastly, the topic of focused and unfocused expectations is quite a wide topic, but the focus here is primarily on one-sided events, and being temporally focused or unfocused. A one-sided event is an event that a person will become aware of only if it impacts them in some way or if it brought to their attention. A prophetic dream is a great example of this. Since the person will not really be aware of the dream unless their predictions within the dream came true. If the person is aware of the event then it is temporally focused as opposed to temporally unfocused.
This is another common error in human reasoning that may support the belief of having a Gay-Dar. For example, someone might have suspected that Rosie O’Donnell was a homosexual female. Now, had Rosie O’Donnell never admitted publicly to being a homosexual, the person making the accusation may have never noticed and gone on believing that they were correct.
They would have therefore been temporally unfocused. However, when Rosie O’Donnell came out and admitted publicly to being a homosexual, the person who originally made the assumption would receive conforming information through an event that is temporally focused. By the way, the same can be said for someone who assumed she was a heterosexual female. These are a few of the cognitive factors that aid in the questionable belief of the Gay-Dar. As well as the reasons why people must learn to properly evaluate their information rather than seeking or gathering confirmatory information and ignoring disconfirming information.