The Sciences

Do lesbians have better gaydar than straight women?

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Photo: flickr/PhotoCatcher

As we all know, "gaydar" refers to a person's ability to identify someone as homosexual based only on looking at them and observing their behavior. A previous study found that women's gaydar works better during ovulation (when it presumably is more important that it works correctly...). This study set out to test whether gaydar abilities differ between lesbians and straight women. Turns out that both groups were better at identifying homosexual women than men, but lesbian women were actually more likely to label someone as homosexual who actually wasn't. Wishful thinking? 

Detection of Sexual Orientation ("Gaydar") by Homosexual and Heterosexual Women. "Although there has been considerable research investigating the ability to identify sexual orientation from static images, or "gaydar," few studies have considered the role of female sexual orientation or sexual interest (for example, sociosexual orientation) in judgment accuracy. In two studies, we investigated the sexuality detection ability, and masculinity and femininity as cues used in judgment. In Study 1, we recruited heterosexual (N = 55) and homosexual (N = 71) women to rate the sexual orientation of homosexual and heterosexual male and female targets (N = 80: 20 heterosexual men, 20 homosexual men, 20 heterosexual women, and 20 homosexual women). We found that detection accuracy was better than chance levels for both male and female targets and that male targets were more likely to be falsely labeled as homosexual than female targets were. Overall, female faces were more accurately identified as heterosexual or homosexual than male faces and homosexual female raters were biased towards labeling targets as homosexual. Sociosexuality did not influence the accuracy with which targets were identified as heterosexual or homosexual. In Study 2, 100 heterosexual and 20 homosexual women rated the stimulus for masculinity and femininity. Heterosexual women were rated as more feminine and less masculine than homosexual women and homosexual men were rated as more feminine and less masculine than heterosexual men. Sexual orientation of the judges did not affect the ratings. The results were discussed with a reference to evolutionary and cultural influences affecting sexual orientation judgment accuracy."

Related content: NCBI ROFL: Gaydar doesn't work as well on upside-down faces.

NCBI ROFL: Women's gaydar improves during ovulation.

NCBI ROFL: Think you’re good at recognizing celebrities? Think again!

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