Social contexts do not affect how listeners perceive personality traits of gay and heterosexual male talkers

Erik C. Tracy –
University of North Carolina Pembroke
Pembroke, NC 28372

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Presented in the afternoon on Thursday, December 5, 2019
178th ASA Meeting, San Diego, CA

Researchers found that different social contexts change how listeners perceive a talker’s emotional state.  For example, a scream while watching a football game could be perceived as excitement, while a scream at a haunted house could be perceived as fear.  The current experiment examined whether listeners would strongly associate certain personality traits with a talker if they knew the talkers’ sexual orientation (i.e., greater social context) compared to if listeners did not know the talkers’ sexual orientation (i.e., less social context).  For example, if a listener knew that a talker was gay, they may perceive the talker as being more outgoing.  In the first phase of the experiment, listeners heard a gay or heterosexual male talker and then they rated, along a 7-point scale with 7 being the strongest, how much they associated the talker with a personality trait.  Here, listeners did not know the talkers’ sexual orientation.  It was found that listeners associated certain personality traits (e.g., confident, mad, stuck-up, and outgoing) with gay talkers and other personality traits (e.g., boring, old, and sad) with heterosexual talkers.  The second phase of the experiment was similar to the first phase, but the key difference was that the listeners were aware of the talkers’ sexual orientation.  For instance, listeners heard a gay or heterosexual talker and then rated the talker along the 7-point scale.  On each trial, the talker’s sexual orientation was presented next to the 7-point scale.  The results of the second phase were similar to the results from the first phase.  If listeners knew the talkers’ sexual orientation, they still perceived gay talkers as being more confident, mad, stuck-up, and outgoing, and they still perceived heterosexual talkers as being more boring, old, and sad.  As an example, the Outgoing chart shows how listeners responded if they knew or did not know the talkers’ sexual orientation when deciding how outgoing the talker was.

In conclusion, if listeners knew the talkers’ sexual orientation (i.e., greater social context), then this did not strengthen associations between gay and heterosexual talkers and certain personality traits.
















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