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Dr. Evelyn Hooker: Psychologist and Gay Ally

June 3, 2014

Though few psychologists (and even fewer non-psychologists) have heard the name Evelyn Hooker, Dr. Hooker’s research played a significant role in the destigmatization of gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities. In recognition of Pride Month (June), we remember Dr. Hooker’s contribution to the field of psychology and to the LGBT equality movement.

Like many of her contemporaries, Dr. Hooker had been trained in the behaviorist tradition of psychology and had conducted research on rodents. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Hooker was convinced by some of her previous students to conduct research on gay men. Specifically, she began investigating the commonly held belief of her day that gay men were mentally disturbed and inferior to heterosexual men. This belief had previously led to the illegalization of homosexuality [sic] and classification as a mental disorder. To test this belief, Dr. Hooker administered three popular personality tests: the Rorschach ink blot test, the Thematic Apperception Test, and the Make-Me-A-Picture test to gay and heterosexual men. She then asked experts to determine which results were from gay men and which were from heterosexual men. Experts were unable to differentiate between test results from the two groups. In other words, the experts were unable to tell whether each set of results was from a gay or heterosexual man. While many would not find her results startling news today, Dr. Hooker’s research was ground breaking when it was published and provided some of the earliest empirical support for the removal of homosexuality [sic] from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

(Note: complete study details and findings are reported in Hooker’s 1957 paper, “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual,” which was published in Journal of Projective Techniques.)

Dr. Hooker’s story has been chronicled in a documentary entitled Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker. Click here to see a clip from the film.

QJEbtXrCeyt9R4IPQH nbapTatRoE5E9Msu1hc21eWUIZMI8HsaFkoNaz MqP8rJvsSlbCYsJo3vHnTQz9EsJ8jmKRhO64ZfMX6OA57cKZwHcYSx6Rxk298lKoNr5XV8E Dr. Evelyn Hooker: Psychologist and Gay AllyBy: Dustin K. Shepler, PhD, Core Faculty at MiSPP