Perspective Taking with Gay Men and Lesbians: A look at clinicians’ and college students’ ability

by Renee Fagen
Faculty advisor: Dr. Wind Goodfriend

Research suggests that the homosexual community has specialized counseling needs, and that resources may not be in place to adequately help (Cochran et al., 2003). The current study looked at clinicians’ and students’ ability to take the perspective of homosexuals. It was expected that clinicians will be better at perspective taking than students.  First, a population of gay/lesbian participants completed several items relevant to their daily lives. A separate group of heterosexual participants and counselors then completed the same items “as a homosexual person would,” primed with either a masculine or effeminate dating profile of a gay male. Analyses looked for similarities in responses between the gay/lesbian group and the participant groups as a measure of perspective-taking ability. Students, men in general, and those given a masculine profile prime were expected to be less accurate at perspective taking. Clinicians were expected to have more accurate perspective taking, compared to college students, due to experience and specialized training. This research might indicate a trend that those who have had more contact with homosexuals are more open and accepting of homosexuals’ experiences, which might suggest students pursuing counseling should seek contact with homosexuals.