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Many people think that they have a “radar” where they can identify groups of people just by looking at them, talking to them or observing specific characteristics. Mormons are no different – if you talk to any Mormon, chances are good that they think they can identify other Mormons.
My (anecdotal) experience with Mormon Radar
I’ve had a couple of experiences with Mormon radar in my life that I can remember, including 3 times in a week on our recent trip to Peru
- When I auditioned to be on Wheel of Fortune, the first stop was a hotel in Louisville with about 100 people. I saw a young couple that looked like they might be Mormon (spoiler alert: they were). I tried to figure out how I could ask them if they were Mormon without it sounding weird :-). Finally I decided to mention that my church had a temple here in Louisville that I had been to. After I said that they were like “Oh are you Mormon?”.
- In Peru, we were on the train to Machu Picchu and talking with another family that seemed like they might be Mormon. The dad mentioned that his daughter that was with him had served an 18 month mission for their church in Lima. Boom – Mormon
- On our way up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, we ran into another Mormon family. This one was almost cheating though since they were all wearing BYU shirts :-D. They ended up taking this picture of us
- When Carolyn and I were at the salt ponds of Maras (SEE ALSO: What to do with 7 days in the Sacred Valley of Peru BESIDES Machu Picchu), I saw a guy taking a video of the salt ponds that I thought could be Mormon. I talked to him and after he mentioned he was from Idaho and had 6 kids, my suspicions were confirmed 🙂
Scientific evidence for “Mormon Radar”
Okay – calling it a scientific “fact” may be stretching things and certainly my anecdotal experience in Peru and elsewhere is no sort of proof at all.
BUT, there has been a study that gives some scientific evidence of Mormon Radar. Titled On the Perception of Religious Group Membership from Faces, researchers from the University of Toronto and Tufts University did a stud to determine whether such a thing as Mormon radar existed.
The whole study is worth a read, but here are some highlights
- Mormons and non-Mormons who passively observed the faces of both ingroup and outgroup members showed significantly better recognition memory for individuals belonging to their ingroup than they did for individuals belonging to their outgroup, similar to ingroup memory advantage effects commonly found for age, race and gender
- Images of Mormon and non-Mormon men and women were obtained from online personal advertisements posted in various major cities across the United States. Search criteria were restricted to individuals 18–30 years of age who specifically indicated either active membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or membership in another non-Mormon religious organization
- Special attention was paid to variation in the faces according to the Mormon Church’s appearance codes so that no obvious markers of Mormon or non-Mormon identity were present. All of the targets were Caucasian
The study concludes that Mormons and non-Mormons subtly differ in their facial appearance and perceivers are able to perceive these differences in a way that allows for accurate categorization. The two groups are distinguished by differences in apparent health, which appears to be expressed in facial cues signaling skin quality
Any experiences with the Mormon radar? Do you think it exists, or is it just a bunch of bunk? Leave your thoughts in the comments
(NOTE: While I have a pretty liberal comment moderation policy, please keep your comments on this post on-topic to “radar”. If you have