"DADT" Linked to Poor Performance

Concealing your life from your coworkers may be stressful, but in the military, it can be life-threatening.

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 09 2009 12:00 AM ET

As Washington stalls on repealing "don't ask, don't tell," a recent Cornell University study confirms what many people had assumed: "DADT" isn't just bad for gay people, it's bad for the military too.

Gay and lesbian study participants who were asked to conceal their sexual orientation performed 20% worse on spatial reasoning tests and 50% worse on physical endurance tests as compared to those who were not given this instruction. The findings have clear implications for the battlefield. Gays and lesbians -- even those who follow the policy -- are prevented from performing optimally, which may affect the readiness of military units.

"It directly counters this argument that 'don't ask, don't tell' allows us to have the highest-performing individuals," said Clayton Critcher, a Ph.D. student in psychology and one of the study's authors. "It affects everyone around them and the general quality of performance."

Researchers instructed gay and lesbian participants not to reveal their sexual orientation while engaging in an eight to ten minute conversation, then asked them to take a spatial reasoning test -- adopted from an Army intelligence test -- and hold an exercise grip for as long as possible. Those asked to keep quiet about being gay in the preceding conversation were able to hold an exercise grip for 11 seconds, compared to an average of 23 for the control group; they also got 20 percent more questions wrong on the spatial reasoning test.

What is especially striking is that study participants did not have to be engaged in a conversation that might relate to sexuality -- for instance, one about relationships or family life -- in order for their abilities to be affected; the effect showed up even when the conversation was about academics or school life.

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