08 March 2010

Same-Sex Survey Skepticism

Mr. Curie has been posting a series I've enjoyed (and not just for the *ahem* illustrations) about results of twin studies relating to homosexuality, and I've found his thoughts interesting and agree that additional tests and surveys would further illustrate correlations.

But...there's something I can't shake from my mind when reading about these studies. I'm a bit skeptical of studies, particularly those about politically or socially charged issues, especially those involving self-assessment and requiring the disclosure of very sensitive information. See, back in college, I participated in a few surveys for various psychology department projects, sometimes for some promised incentive but partly for the fun of seeing how it worked and how they designed the surveys. I know: I'm twisted.

Here's the thing: when one survey asked questions about sexual orientation or homosexual thoughts, I fudged. I was really conflicted. I believed in the importance of responding accurately for their results to have meaning, but I also was going to school in my hometown and absolutely refused to risk anyone finding out about my deepest, darkest secret. They assured participants the individual surveys would only be seen by those compiling the results, the sheet with the name and the survey were separate papers, and names would not be associated with responses and would only be used for ensuring no duplicate surveys were submitted, yadda yadda yadda. Didn't matter. But what if someone matched the short answer writing with my printed name incidentally, and it was someone I knew? Or someone breeched confidentiality practices and left the surveys in a nosy acquaintance's house, and they somehow matched them up? Maybe an old acquaintance with a grudge? Or...aliens landed, infiltrated university psychology department files and worldwide news media and publicized a 24-hour "O-Mo has same-sex attraction" worldwide public service announcement...

Anyway, whenever I see these surveys, I think of all the closeted respondents who won't even admit in an anonymous survey that they've had naughty thoughts about members of the same sex. Straight folks don't have much incentive or reason to hide their heterosexuality, but non-straight folks certainly have motive to hide their deviant sexuality, which leaves me wondering how many more homos those surveys missed...

1 comment:

Mister Curie said...

I'm glad that you've enjoyed the series (and I'm confident you read it for the information and not the pictures :P)

I definitely agree with you that the studies are missing important subsets of the population. I couldn't even admit to myself that I am gay until a few months ago, let alone to a survey. This issue will come up in some future posts about some of the more modern genetic approaches being used to understand homosexuality.