The Good Life
Can you tell someone’s sexual orientation just by looking? Apparently most of us can. That’s the conclusion of two scientists who found most people possess an automatic “gaydar” that assesses sexual orientation in less than a blink of an eye.
In tests, scientists found that gaydar works on an unconscious level and is more accurate when directed at women.
The researchers showed volunteers photos for just 50 milliseconds, a third of an eyeblink, and asked them to decide who was “straight” and who was “gay”. Most were accurate 60 percent of the time, even though the pictures were stripped of clues like facial hair, make-up or piercings and they were cropped so that only faces, not hairstyles, were visible.
The volunteers’ accuracy remained greater than chance even when the photos were upside-down.
But gaydar is more accurate when directed at women. For female faces, participants were 65 per cent accurate in guessing sexual orientation.
Differentiating between gay and straight men turned out to be harder. In this case, gaydar got the answer right only 57 per cent of the time.
The lead researcher says this may be similar to how we don’t have to think about whether someone is a man or a woman. The research, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.