Biases about gay and lesbian professors

In a new study published in The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, psychologists Kristin J. Anderson and Melinda Kanner explored undergraduate students’ evaluations of lesbian, gay, and heterosexual professors of a hypothetical course, Psychology of Human Sexuality. They provided students with a syllabus of the course, providing biographical information about the hypothetical professor including political ideology, gender, and sexual identity. The researchers also varied whether the syllabus had typographical errors. They examined whether students would differ in their evaluations of the lesbian/gay and heterosexual professors, especially in terms of whether the professor was politically biased.

The researchers found that lesbian and gay professors were viewed as politically biased, while heterosexual professors with the exact same syllabus were viewed as objective. On average, lesbian/gay professors were rated more harshly, and students pointed to political bias and typographical errors (typos) on the syllabus as their main reason for the negative evaluation. However, heterosexual professors were not negatively evaluated for political bias and typographical errors.

For more, go here.

(Thanks, Rob!)

9 thoughts on “Biases about gay and lesbian professors

  1. yeah, this has been circulating on the queer faculty server-list at my institution.
    I’m shocked. Shocked I tell you, to find that there’s gambling…

  2. Should we have a “course evaluations” category? We get asked often enough whether we have anythinig on student assessments of teachers.

  3. This is nothing new. The same happens with respect to men vs. women, black vs white, liberal vs conservative.

  4. Thank god we have psychologists to prove what is patently obvious! whew! To think I might have been laboring under the benighted belief that there were not biases against GL(BT) professors!

  5. I totally agree it’s exactly what we’d expect. Still, we sometimes need to be able to cite studies like this to convince people of what seems obvious to us.

  6. The need for a study to make what seems obviously true, to some, count as ‘knowledge’ might be similar to the phenomenon being studied. Knowing from some subject positions is often treated (by some, many(?)) as suspect.

  7. I find myself a bit torn. I feel tempted by the thought: this is just obvious– people who report the experience should be believed, so we don’t need these studies! But then there are all those able-bodied white men who insist that they are the ones who are disadvantaged, and they know that from their experience. And yes, one could take the line that the oppressed have the epistemically better standpoint but (a) first we have to decide who the oppressed are, and plenty of able-bodied white men will insist it’s them; and (b) I’m not convinced that it’s always true. As jj has pointed out, there are ways that oppression can distort one’s sense of what is going on.

    So, in the end, I do think studies like this are important. Even if they are simply confirming what I already believed.

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