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Study: Faces may reveal whether people are gay

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  1. Gaydar does exist!

    1. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 1:57pm

      Like any of us ever doubted it.
      Straights have never believed us though.

      1. Straights never believed it and some more risible individuals tried to ridicule it – but it exists.

        Some people are better tuned into it than others, and the signal strength does vary from time to time – but it certainly exists!

  2. I don’t get how they know what chance accuracy is. Surely the chance of someone being gay is an unknown quantity, variously put between 1% and something in the teens. If people can correctly identify men as gay 57% of the time, that’s a lot more than chance. Equally, if you guessed everyone was straight, you would have guessed people’s sexuality right 80-99% of the time.

    I guess I’ll have to look at the study itself to find out what they are actually trying to say.

    1. I guess it does depend on how the probabilities are worked out and how the questions are framed.

      If the question is “Are they gay?” then the answer options are Yes, No or Don’t know (and if you eliminate the don’t knows that leaves a 50/50 chance of getting it correct).

      If the question is more “What do you believe their sexual orientation is?” then working out the percentage probabilities is somewhat more complex.

      The methodology for the research could be very interesting.

      1. A 50/50 chance of picking the right answer if you choose randomly, but only a 50/50 chance of either answer being correct if half the sample is gay and half straight, which isn’t the case in real life.

        1. Depends on how they measure it though. Are they merely measuring success of the simpler question “Are they gay?” and not accounting for the number of pictures etc.

          Methodology is important.

          Nonetheless – however the chance is determined, it seems to prove that the perception that some people have gaydar may be true.

      2. Probabilistics 17 May 2012, 9:37pm

        in a computational sense at least, how I envision sexuality in relation to probability …

    2. When asking the question “is someone gay” there is a 50% chance the answer is correct.

      An example would be, is grass green, a person can either say yes or no, thus a 50% chance.

      If people were guessing then there would be more than likely that they would only ever be 50% correct.

      When they calculate the overall percentage of people guessing correctly, they take the amount of times some guesses correctly with the 50% chance and they found that people guessed correctly.

      Its all probabilty and scientific processes.

      1. yeah…. what about bisexuals?

        1. hannah

          Gaydar is never 100% reliable.

          Some people I will look at and perceive them to be gay, some straight and some I have no idea. Of all of those some I will get right and some I will get wrong. Of the don’t knows – I suspect some of them will be bisexual.

          In a random experiment I did with some friends at Uni, I was around 65% accurate.

        2. Sam Maloney 20 May 2012, 2:06am

          In all likely hood, they only used pictures of people who self described as either gay or straight, just to simplify the study.

          If the researchers were being really fair, the photos would have been identically posed, makeup free, and jewelery free so that the people guessing would have to go by the facial features alone, and not finding hints based on pose, expression etc.

    3. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 2:00pm

      Well if someone asks me “Is that person gay?” the chances are I couldn’t be certain, but if I state “That person IS gay”, you can bet your arse I am 100% right, even if that person doesn’t know it themselves.

      I once met a guy on his honeymoon, and I had alarm bells ringing.
      18 months later he had divorced and moved in with a guy.

      1. You guys have no real grasp of statistics. The probability of guessing whether any ONE person is gay or straight (does the study exclude other sexualities?) is indeed 50% – yes or no.

        But the chance that you would correctly identify all the gay/straight people in the study depends on the distribution, or ratio, of the gay:straight people in the study. Let’s say there are 80 straight people and 20 gay people. Clearly the chance probability of correctly identifying all the gay people is not 50% – because the distribution of gay:straight people is not 50%, it would be 20%.

        After you collect the data, you analyse each participant’s correctness score and analyse these data versus chance using statistical procedures that compare two groups.

        1. But before you analyse the data – you need to know the question asked.

    4. The article is freely available to read at the given link and despite my immediate scepticism re experimental flaws I have to say I’m impressed by this study design. All photos were naturally occurring but selected by assistants blind to the research topic and all identifying features, including hair, were photoshopped out, so te participants were only left with literally the facial features to look at. Greater than chance is calculated in studies like these using statistical tests and the p values (indicators of probability) are quite high compared to many studies. It’s a lot more complex than raw percentages and as a researcher used to critiquing studies like this… I say not bad! This is more convincing than any other recent studies about the biology of gayness that I’ve read. So gaydar does exist! Time to put away our rainbow braces?!

  3. Hair styles and facial hair and general grooming can be clues to someone’s sexuality, so I would not assume it is totally down to things like face shape and structure. I think there is lots of scope for more study. Are closeted gay people harder to determine from their faces? How does bisexuality fit in? etc etc.

    I agree that this is an important study and that the implications clearly prove that the homophobic argument that gay people can stay safe inside the closet is incorrect.

  4. I don’t really find this surprising. I’ve got a fairly well-attuned gaydar, although not flawless – it’s more of a feeling than a list of signs. Not sure whether it’s different for different people.

  5. Gaydar is does exist to a certain extent.

    But it’s mostly based on stereotypes which most gay men now days break (including myself).

    But i kinda wanna test this out to a friend of mine who i suspect is gay but is still deeeeeep in the closet.

    1. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 2:04pm

      stereotype noun 1 a an over-generalized and preconceived idea or impression of what characterizes someone or something, especially one that does not allow for any individuality or variation;

      That doesn’t mean that stereotypes don’t have a founding in reality.
      No matter how much you try to break the mould, there will always be nuances that give you away, they just be that more subtle.

      1. Yes but if someone is closeted they are not going to exhibit these stereotypes – so really this study cannot be seen to be conclusive. Like are they saying you can tell gay from straight by how they ‘dress’ (ie do up their head) or is this some genetic thing that shows in ones’ face?

        I think it’s rot – I can see gay closeted people not by how they act or dress but how they interact and their personal history – most of them are still closeted so I will never know (except for the one who’s gay porn I found – yet he plans to marry his girlfriend).

  6. I always trust my gaydar.

  7. The only thing this research proves is that people can become quite good at making generalisations.

    1. Tee Hee!

  8. I have been guilty of falsely accusing one for being gay, when in fact they are not. But with that said, this holds true in most cases. I have always thought it was GAYDAR but soon realized that indeed it was not!! Kudos to the study group!!!

    1. ‘accuse’ is surely a very negative verb?

  9. Mirror mirror….

    1. Yes indeed it does not lie!

      1. we’re allways gorgeous lol

  10. I’ve had an inbuilt gaydar since the age of 13.
    Just as the satnav in my car it is correct SOME of the time….lol

  11. I don’t really buy this. Largely because I have a straight identical twin brother, and until we started wearing our hair differently people who didn’t know us well very often got us confused.

    The sample size also seems very small indeed.

    1. Does your indentical twin have identical mannerisms?

      1. But this study isn’t about mannerisms or hairstyles or the clothes a person wears or how they speak and what they say. If all that were taken into account then I’d say it’s possible to accurately guess a person’s sexuality. But if it’s purely about looking at a person’s face without all the other stuff then I’m not connvinced.

        1. BennieM

          However, when you extrapolate the study to real life you do see the mannerisms and movements and they are part of the NVCs that help gaydar make a perceptive judgement call.

          1. @Stu

            Yes, that’s exactly what I just said!

            When you’ve got the whole picture (mannerisms, dress, speech etc.) then it’s possible to accurately guess a lot of the time.

            But I really don’t think it’s that easy when it’s only their face on it’s own, without all the rest of it.

          2. I suppose that in real life we never just see a person’s face – we always see their clothes and hairstyle and mannerisms etc. – so we always get a bigger picture and more info to go on.

        2. “129 students, 92 of whom were women, were shown black and white photos of a woman or a man for 50 milliseconds and were able to guess the sexual orientation of the subject with above-chance accuracy.”

          50 milliseconds, black & white photos…. mmmm… let me think about that… :P

      2. Very similar ones, yes. Though he is a lot more flamboyant and outgoing while I tend to be much shyer and more introverted. But that’s beside the point – as has already been pointed out, this study was based only on still, black and white photographs.

        1. It depends whether you were sticking to the study or the extrapolation of the study about gaydar. Its certainly relevant in the latter.

    2. Depends on the needs of the statistical power for the study. There is such thing as too large a sample size too!

  12. This makes me wonder if gay folks would score higher on this test than straight people. Are our senses more finely tuned in this regard?

    1. That’s a really good point you raise, Don.

    2. When I was involved in a small scale experiment at Uni (a long time ago!) the gay guys who took part were slightly more accurate than lesbians. Lesbians were significantly stronger than heterosexuals taking part. I am sorry, I can not recall if any bisexuals were part of the study group nor if they did how perceptive they were.

      1. That’s really interesting, Stu. Were there any conclusions drawn in the study you took part in as to why gay men were the most accurate and then lesbians etc?

        It’s such a fascinating topic because sexuality is always usually considered to not be visible in a way that gender or race is.

        1. There were two theories that were considered, but I can’t recall what firm conclusions were made (I will try and recontact an ex uni friend who also took part and see if she can remember any more).

          The two theories were:
          i) Gay people might recognise non verbal cues be they mannerisms, clothing or whatever that they use themselves or which they find attractive/endearing. Gay people may find these more closely linked to orientation as they had to actively seek out someone with matching orientation and as a protective mechanism due to experiences of homophobia.
          ii) A theory was promulgated that there may be some neurological cause linked to attributes of men/women (and their traditional roles, talents and abilities) and an appreciation of people awareness. I can’t remember exactly how the argument progressed but I remember it was neurological and linked to male/female roles.

          1. There could be something in the first theory, in my opinion. It makes sense to me that we would recognise (even subconsciously) the same mannerisms etc. that we ourselves have. Not that I’m saying that every gay man acts exactly same, of course.

          2. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 5:51pm

            I definitely go with the first.
            I thought about this years ago, and it something like

            Wearing jeans = 0 points
            Wearing Levi 501’s = 2 points
            Wearing red jeans = 5 points
            Wearing white jeans = 10 points

            That doesn’t mean guy wearing white jeans is necessarily gay, but one subconsciously adds up points such as dress, hair, walk, voice, mannerisms etc etc and the points will reach a stage where one says “gaydar alert”.

    3. Maybe we have an innate ‘animal instinct’ to sniff out a mate.

      1. I remember reading somewhere that gay men find the smell of gay men more appealing than the smell of straight men(on average), in the same way that straight men find the smell of women with different genes more appealing, which is supposed to make for more healthy offspring.

        No nasty comments about personal hygiene please ;)

        1. Spanner1960 18 May 2012, 12:48am

          There may well be a pheromone connection in there somewhere. Probably worth investigating.

    4. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 5:56pm

      I had no idea about who was gay except the blatantly obvious effeminate types until I came out and started going on the scene.

      I once heard it said that the only men that understand their own sexuality were gay men and Italians. :)

  13. I wonder if anyone thinks Sentamu looks gay? It would be disconcerting if we could take a poll on well-known homophobes – e.g/ “57% of our poll says you are gay”. That might make some of them pause for thought….

    1. Imagine if Sentamu was exposed as having a gay lover!

  14. Vigilance is good.

  15. My Gaydar was well tuned before I even knew what it was. Out of all the people I could have hung-out with in my primary school, secondary school and university; the one’s I chose to hang around with later came out as gay. So I don’t think it’s all about spotting stereotypes. Often you get a sense first then will turn to spotting stereotypes/ typical identifiers to help confirm your feeling.

  16. Garry Cassell 17 May 2012, 2:53pm

    whoopeee…what a study…just basically the law of averages for the men…are you expecting some Nobel Prize for this study…

  17. I’ve always trusted my Gaydar especially when it tells me someone is gay but they deny that they are. I’ve got 2 men in mind currently. Shapps and Hunt. I’m willing to be wrong.

    1. Always had my suspicions but particularly about Shapps.

      Although, I have cautioned myself because I do find Grant Shapps quite attractive! So is it just wishful thinking!

      1. The amount of guys I’ve labelled as gay just out of wishful thinking could fill a football ground! I’ve been right about some of them, though!

        1. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 5:57pm

          That could be simply down to luck rather than judgement though.

          1. Where in my comment have I claimed to have perfect judgement? I don’t really see how your reply relates to my comment. I simply said I often hope a guy is gay cause I fancy him and sometimes he is – meaning sometimes he isn’t.

    2. @Michael

      I’ve thought the exact same thing about those two! I’d also add Rory Stewart and Liam Fox to that list, although Liam Fox is hardly a difficult one!

      Funny how they’re all Tories!

      1. I do have a suspicion about Liam Fox (don’t we all?), but not out of wishful thinking!!!!

        On the wishful thinking – Jake Berry, Chris Kelly, Dominic Raab and Jamie Reed

        1. There are definitely more lookers in Westminister than Holyrood (although that could be simply because there are 600-odd MPs and only 129 MSPs). One MSP who does stand out, though, is Mark Griffin.

          1. And here’s one who isn’t so good looking…..


  18. As a Physics student, I’ve spent my entire degree doing my head in with significance limits and null hypotheses etc, and although it’s hard to be sure without all the data, 57% and 65% are generally not enough to say that this didn’t happen by chance…

    1. That depends on what the chance probabilities were! If the chance probabilities were only 20% then there probably is a significant difference. Also you don’t just look at the obtained and theoretical probabilities – you use proper statistical tests that tell you the significance level of the difference in variance between the groups.

      1. true, I am in Stats class. but the size of the sample population, how many were shown to them, how many were the gay or straight faces, how many were female or male, black, asian, upside down?

        To be sure it was accurate and also an unbiased test, theses figures and more facts we need to read. what if some feminine photos had trace of soft lighting or what if the masculine ones had harsher angles and shadows? without seeing the pictures themselves it is hard to know if accidental bias could play in.

        so the best scientific way to check the accuracy is to repeat the test. also, not make it so complicated. keep it to just white gay or straight men without facial hair, and any long hair pulled back, ages 19-35, all face straight forward, head shot from neck up, same lighting and black background for all b&w pix. test that 1st, and have 100 men. then have separate groups also doing the test, the guessers if chosen like same age range as above born in America white ethnicity, then women.

  19. Hmmmm.
    I saw the recent series of that tacky reality show “Playing it straight” on E4 – for those unfamiliar with the format there’s a straight girl and 14 guys who all have to convince that they’re straight.
    Usually half are gay and half are straight. If the girl picks a straight guy as her final date they split the £100,000 prize fund, if a gay guy dupes her sucessfully over a fortnight he pockets the lot.
    I looked at the opening lineup and I had difficulty selecting a single straight guy from the lineup. They were all as camp as Christmas but half of them were straight.
    The first series it was won by a butch gay builder, who looked nothing like what I’d imagine the stereotype to be. So I’m not convinced gaydar’s foolproof. Or maybe my gaydar’s broken.

    1. I think you’re right, it’s definitely not foolproof. I like to think I’m quite good at telling if someone is gay, but I have nowhere near a 100% record!

      I remember watching the last episode of the first series that tv progoramme you mention, where it was revealed the guy she picked was gay. I hadn’t watched it before that (or since!) but it was on one late Sunday morning when I was still in bed!

      Anyway, I remember the woman got all angry about it and blamed him and he ended up splitting the money with her anyway! Bugger that, I’d have kept the lot! After all, that was the point of the game show and she lost.

      1. Thankyou! I thought it was just me…
        If you go on a reality show where the format is explained up front, you know half the guys you’re dating are lying about which team they’re batting for and winning the jackpot depends on weeding them out, you can hardly act all hurt and betrayed if you choose wrong.
        I would’ve kept the entire stash too, I mean she didn’t have to spend two solid weeks convincing everyone she was lesbian, so I call that a fair contest!
        She got a free holiday out of it… where’s the problem?

        1. Yes, she was a total bitch about it! Nothing worse than a sore loser!

    2. Its certainly not foolproof.

      Sometimes it works better than other times – but it can be effective!

    3. There has been more than one occasion where I would have not made a move on a guy (in a straight bar – and in more than one occasion in a country where discretion is essential) without the benefit of very strong gaydar signals.

  20. better look at my ass

    1. Got pics? lol

    2. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 5:52pm

      Why? Do you think your donkey might be gay?

      1. Asses have cute ears though….Ooooooops!

  21. “Success in guessing the sexuality of another person upside down was less, but it was still above a rate of chance.”


  22. Open question:

    What is it about a person that tends to make you think they’re gay?

    For me it tends to be certain things they say that convince me.

    1. Body language and eye contact.
      Investigate further!

    2. Lots of things can be clues including things like hair, clothes etc and in this regard shoes are often a strong suggestion (in my experience!)

      Mutual eye contact, well groomed, certain words and there is a certain persona and image that I see but am only subconsiously aware of what I am seeing – but I do know consciously that I am seeing it.

      1. All of those things pique my interest but I only tend to be convinced when they’ve said something or other which leaves me in no doubt!

    3. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 6:00pm

      Usually their willingness to suck cock.

  23. April Bresgal 17 May 2012, 4:33pm

    I would argue the point that this study reinforces the idea that gay people need protection from discrimination. I served in the military for 20 years, and suffered very little person-to-person discrimination, when it was clear to everyone I was gay. Straight people have gaydar, and most of them don’t care. Bullies are bullies, and they WILL find a target. Another problems entirely.

  24. There would never be a report into the differences between black and white people. this crap is so old and offensive why is it still allowed?

  25. What a load of rubbish. The ‘study’ also claims that people can tell who’s male and who’s female, which is also bulls**t, because it ignores the fact that trans people exist. Nonsense based on outdated and harmful stereotypes and a skewed and narrow view of sexuality and gender.

    1. Hah, I thought this might get rated down. But just consider the fact that studies like this have been used in the past to inflame discrimination against gay and trans people. Case in point: that horridly offensive Paddy Power ‘Spot the trans lady: woman or man?’ advert, which asserts that trans women are really men based on the way they look. Stereotypes and narrowmindedness hurt us all and stuff like this, conducted by people who don’t know any better, is part of the problem. People are who they say they are, whether they’re straight, gay, bi, trans or anything else. They’re not what some randomer off the street or some professor says they ‘really’ are. The truth is you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

      1. Spanner1960 17 May 2012, 5:54pm

        Call me overreactionary, but if I see someone in a dress with a moustache, I tend to think something might be amiss.

        1. Well then, congratulations! You’re a cissexist.

        2. Alright. We will.

  26. i bet most of pictures featured the likes of kenneth williams and john inman in camp poses

  27. who the hell pays for stupid studies like this – surely any self respecting University professor could thing of something more useful?

    1. Human face processing is an important part of cognitive (neuro)psychology. The social-psychological implications of our visual encodings of human faces is important – it’s a part of who we are and what makes us human.

  28. Look. I’m a gay man. I’m also trans. If my face were in this study, the participants would have probably coded me as a lesbian woman, based on my feminine features and short hair. It’s flawed because it relies on assumptions about gender and sexuality (example: masculine = male, feminine = female, masculine = straight man/Butch lesbian, feminine = straight woman/gay man, etc) that don’t just hurt and erase trans people but anyone who doesn’t conform to gender norms. I’ve had my gender invalidated more times than I can remember by family, friends, workmates, guys in bars… So forgive me if I’m just a little bit upset and totally fed up of being told who I supposedly am and not being listened to when I tell people who I am.

  29. I once had a colleague who never gave me the smallest signal. He was seriously ‘swtched off’ in that way that screams ‘straight’ and he even droned on about football (and no, I don’t mean the players’ cute legs, bums and paquets), and then I ran into him in a gay bar when he was waiting for his boyfriend. My flabber was gasted.

    1. Exactly. More proof you can’t always tell everything about someone just by looking. Including sexuality and gender.

      1. It merely proves that its not 100% reliable.

        1. Spanner1960 18 May 2012, 12:45am

          Like I said earlier, I could not state if somebody was or wasn’t taken from a random sample, but if I think they are, I have never been proven wrong.

  30. We have to be careful here not to confuse cause and effect. It could be that some people who are perceived to have a gay-looking face end up gay because of the way their face looks. So their gay-looking face came first and their gay identity developed later in response to the way they were treated by other people who were sure they were gay. What is a gay identity anyway? I suspect that in most places, and for most of history, gay was a behaviour and not a separate identity as it is today.

    1. It was created as a separate social identity by homophobia (which came first). Sexual desire is not in itself, I would suggest, constitutive of identity except in particular cultures. But I don’t believe that people can acquire particular sexual desires simply because of the way others perceive them. Desire is primordial; interpretation and identity follow.

  31. theGentleWarrior 17 May 2012, 7:21pm

    There are two options for each photo, gay or straight. Each test subject has a 50% chance of choosing correctly and the results say

    “Participants guessed women’s sexuality accurately 65 percent of the time and men’s sexuality accurately 57 percent.”

    So with a 50/50 shot they they passed by 7% more for men and 15% more for women.

    This alone is proof of nothing but money wasted.

    1. Even if the study does not prove anything categorically that does not make it money wasted. One would need to fully understand everything that has been determined or considered before reaching a judgement on that, not just two simple percentages. It may provide considerations for further research or lead to decisions that some further research is unnecessary (in the same or related issues). It may also develop social science individuals in their abilities who later go on to discover matters of significance.

      Judging a study on two percentages and not the entire project is, at best, unfair.

  32. I feel a bit like laboratory guinea-pig. I wonder what else they are going to test?
    Why is there this weird fascination of Gay Community?

  33. Probabilistics 17 May 2012, 9:37pm

    in a computational sense at least, how I envision sexuality in relation to probability …

  34. And about transgender ? Could people also identify that I am transgender just by looking at my face ?

  35. Mundo, I think the notion is on just guessing you’d get somewhere close to 50% since the test has two options. I’d be interested in how people did when you eliminated hair and other things and just had the eye now and mouth to look at.

  36. Yes, I agree. gaydar exists. Not just in the face.

    Mannerisms also play a big part.

  37. People sometimes are too confident in their gaydar. I have friends who have literally ended up harrasing straight people that had mild effeminate behaviours based on their “dar”. Not kosher.

    1. Spanner1960 18 May 2012, 4:44pm

      I thought they were trying to find out if people were gay, not Jewish.

  38. This study is worrying. Why would you like to know this? What is the intention behind it?
    Just fill in the missing word.
    Faces may reveal, whether people are _______ .
    a) gay b) straight c) Jewish d) Muslim e) stupid d) intelligent e) Londoners

    In China, the police used to ask you to look at your hands, so I heard. If you looked at your fingernails, you’d be supposed to be gay. Perhaps, they’d train their gaydar according to this study…

  39. Wim in Holland 18 May 2012, 10:00am

    At every photo even blindfolded the chance I give the right answer out of two possibilities is already 50% . So I am not impressed by the percentage results. At percentages above 70% there would be something. I would be convinced by percentages above 80%.

  40. Suddenly Last Bummer 18 May 2012, 2:34pm

    Only one way to find out if the owner of a face is gay- sit on it.

  41. For those that think it’s other clues, go look at the study, you can see the faces mean exactly that, no hair, or even ears. And for those that don’t understand stats, a p value of < .05 is considered significant (i.e. it's got an 80% chance it's for real) and they were getting p values of .002 & .001.

  42. I think there’s something in it. I’ve long held a belief in a genuine “gaydar”. I truly think it exists. And for that matter I think some people, a small per centage admittedly, do really have a “gay face”. The blonde guy that played Justin in the US version of Queer as Folk (and the actor who played Emmet in that series for that matter) are two examples. They just “look gay” and I cannot explain what I mean by that, but it certainly isn’t meant offensively.

    Some people, in my opinion, do have “gay faces”! It’s not to say people who are gay also don’t have “gay faces” but I’m sorry, I think there’s something in the study.

  43. chris lowercase 19 May 2012, 1:10am

    no… go away… maybe if the face in question is fixed upon a member of the same sex with a dream like face. even then the best way of knowing for sure is probably waiting for said person to say ‘i am gay’.

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