Study Finds College Students Are Adept at Distinguishing Sexual Orientation From a Brief Facial Glimpse

A new study published in the open-access online journal PLoS ONE, finds that college students are adept at identifying the sexual orientation of their peers merely by looking at their faces.

Example of an image flashed to survey participants.

Participants were shown photographs of men and women who identified themselves as gay or straight. The participants were asked to guess the sexual orientation of the people in the photographs after viewing the faces for less than one second. 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.

Participants were correct in their assessments of the sexual orientation of men in the photographs 57 percent of the time. When shown faces of women, survey participants were correct on sexual orientation 65 percent of the time.

Vivan Zayas

The was study conducted by Joshua Tabak, a psychology graduate student at the University of Washington and Vivian Zayas, a former psychology student at the University of Washington who is now an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University. Dr. Zayas is a graduate of Cornell University and holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from the University of Washington.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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