Study suggests that 'gaydars' are real - at least for women

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi.
Photo / AP
Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Photo / AP

Previous studies have suggested that men's sexuality can be judged by their appearance, but a new study shows a similar experiment also works for women too.

The notion that gay people have a 'gaydar' has previously been explored in detail by researchers, but the majority of those studies have focused on men - until Mollie Ruben, a doctoral student at Northeastern University, attempted to measure a woman's ability to judge sexuality, personality and their thoughts to compare against findings for men.

She gathered a group of nine women - five of whom were lesbians - and conducted video interviews lasting five minutes, with each participant reviewing their interview and noting down their thoughts and emotions at the time.

Ms Ruben and her colleagues then asked a larger group of women - 67 straight, 43 gay - a series of questions about the video subject's sexuality, thoughts, emotions, and overall personality.

Her findings, published on the Northeastern University website, were fascinating, highlighting that lesbians were effectively better at identifying other women's sexuality, with straight women commended for their ability to pinpoint emotion and personality traits.

The research suggested that lesbians found it "more interesting, motivating, and rewarding to judge the sexual orientation of other women compared to judging their thoughts, emotions, or personality". However, the reason for this, according to the study, is because straight women "might not care so much about sexual orientation and thus don't focus on it enough to detect it".

In an attempt to pre-empt criticism of their experiment, the conductors of the study admitted there were likely to be "limitations" to their study - given that the location of where they carried out their research, Boston, may not necessarily represent the same results as the rest of America or other countries.

In addition to that, participants were not drawn from random but were instead sourced from friend networks and LGBT websites, perhaps questioning the reliability of the experiment.

Nevertheless, the study has been praised for giving more insight into the idea of the "gaydar", and adds "several novel contributions to research on the subject", according to the report.

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