STUDY: It’s Easier To Detect Lesbian Faces Than Gay Men’s On Sight Alone

A new study published in PLoS ONE finds that college students have pretty accurate gaydar when it comes to guessing the sexual orientation of faces from photographers, reports Science Codex.

Interesting! But what’s even more interesting is that the students were more able to recognize gay female faces than gay male faces.

Could that be because lesbian characteristics are more noticeable when it comes to the face? Like, they tend to have short hair and facial piercings, whereas most gay men tend to try to do the “clean-cut” thing nowadays? Actually, the study controlled for that:

In the study, 129 college students viewed 96 photos each of young adult men and women who identified themselves as gay or straight. Concerned that facial hair, glasses, makeup and piercings might provide easy clues, the researchers only used photos of people who did not have such embellishments. They cropped the grayscale photos so that only faces, not hairstyles, were visible.

For women’s faces, participants were 65 percent accurate in telling the difference between gay and straight faces when the photos flashed on a computer screen. Even when the faces were flipped upside down, participants were 61 percent accurate in telling the two apart.

At 57 percent accuracy, they had a harder time differentiating gay men from straight men. The participants’ accuracy slipped to 53 percent—still statistically above chance—when the men’s faces appeared upside down.

The difference in accuracy for men’s and women’s faces was driven by more false alarm errors with men’s faces – that is, a higher rate of mistaking straight men’s faces as gay.

That’s probably because people are quick to call any non-Cro Magnon guy queer while women have some latitude.

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  • Ewoks R Us

    The straight men probably were gay, just in denial or something.

  • Marie Cohn

    Actually, it’s Lesbian Voice that’s the prime factor in IDing the Sapphic Sisters…

  • Red Meat

    @Ewoks R Us: Exactly what went through my head lol

  • Alex

    “the sexual orientation of faces from photographers”
    from photographERS? Did you mean photographS? Photographer is a person who takes photographs.

  • evji108

    Yes that’s funny, how can you tell if the self-identification as gay or straight was accurate? I am sure they just took their word for it. What about the closeted gay men
    who wouldn’t admit they were gay? I have seen other studies where researchers did pure
    voice tests and people were also very good at telling gay from straight men just on
    hearing their voices alone.

  • Randall Reynolds

    This, of course, is because the VAST majority of men are bisexual, at the very least!

  • Spike

    Curious no mention of the ethnic nor age range of those in the pictures. The study is meaningless if the sample group didn’t represent a fair representation of the larger group. I’m guessing the pictures were of a bunch of white college students, shock and awe that a bunch of white college students were able to identify the str8t/gay look of their peers.

  • Steve

    It would be interesting to verify or refute the common assumption that gay people can recognize each other much more easily than straight people can recognize gays. That is, that gay guys have better gaydar than straight guys. They could have asked the sexual orientation of the students, and tried to get an adequate sample of gay students to look at the pictures.

    The use of faces only is also interesting. The usual assumption is that body-language plays a role in identifying gay and lesbian people.

  • 1equalityUSA

    John Boehner sets my gaydar off big time and he’s so anti-gay that it confirms it. Women are easier to spot via facial features alone, but the entire picture, the voice, body language, eyes, and subtle aura is definitely present. My spouse and I will see someone on T.V. and turn to one another and say, “It’s so genetic! How can people believe that being gay is not genetic?” Children know, as well as latent, eighteen year old, cruel sons-of-governors in fancy prep schools with a penchant for bullying. Humans are evolving. I contend that everyday verbal communication will slowly be replaced by telepathic non-verbal forms of communication. We were born with immutable characteristics in which discrimination is not only tolerated, but encouraged. I don’t understand why straights are so vexed by our human traits. Someday we will find our place in the sun and be looking back at these times, awestruck by the rhetoric hurled at us. It’s so genetic.

  • henree

    Actually, it’s been shown Bis have the most accurate gaydar.,

  • Geri

    Probably just some more bogus biphobic pseudo-scientific bullshit research.

  • adam

    the idea of “straight faces” and “gay faces” bothers me. These were still images of faces, without any motion, gestures, or animation, and people were invited to guess, right or wrong, if the person with the face was gay? holy reinforced stereotypes, batman!

    these were straight people, invited to guess what gay people look like, or these were gays and straights, somehow folded into the same sample, to prove something about what “we” can recognize about “them”? that’s an awfully high degree of controlling who can look at whom.

    gaydar is so subjective as to shade into wishful thinking, and one can be catastrophically wrong in one’s guessing, so i just don’t act on my assumptions. and, as soon as the person one is guessing about is originally from some culture other than america, all bets are off: what sets off gaydar here could be a mainstream cultural norm in other countries.

    this researcher seems to be trying to be queer friendly, but what he comes up with reinforces stereotypes, even prejudices, while he’s at it. findings rejected.

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