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Are We Really Discussing Gay Face?


A study seems to say 'gaydar' is real and people are all excited that they may possess it.

Think you can make snap judgements when you see someone and know if they're straight, gay, or some sort of confused mess? Yeah, that's we thought. Well, a new study seems to support that, more often than not, people can IN FACT accurately judge a person's sexual orientation by just glancing at their face, a University of Washington and Cornell University study published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS ONE found.

"We may be doing this so efficiently that we may not even have to try to make this judgment," Joshua Tabak, a grad student in psychology and a researcher in the study, told LiveScience.

Of course, this is the sort of pop culture stuff that is typically Malcolm Gladwell's territory (think Blink). Taking those sort of common sensical things and backing them up with some scientific paper or research and proving what people already think so they can then make a big fuss over it.

So are we really discussing "gaydar" for "gay face"? Really?

Seems we are, and the way Tabak and his co-author tested for gaydar was that they presented photographs of 111 gay men, 122 straight men, 87 gay women and 93 straight women to 129 student volunteers. Some of the students saw upside-down faces, and others were shown the faces right-side up. In either case, the black-and-white cropped photos were presented for only 50 milliseconds, and they showed only the person's face -- no hairstyles, facial hair, glasses or makeup to give clues (pictured). And Voila! They got it right almost half of the time!

"Why this is we can only speculate," Tabak said. "It's really interesting to speculate that there might be this ironic effect that because we're more familiar with the concept of gay men [in the media], maybe we're more liberal with labeling a man gay."

Now, we're not talking about some sort of precognitive skill. This seems to just be an ability to take stereotypical ideas of what a gay or straight man looks like and apply it to images. We already have a name for that ability to detect things that you thought you could hide and you might not have even figured out yourself quite yet.

What is that called, you ask? Mom.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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