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Gaydar: Are women better at spotting one of their own?

28 April 2014 Taylor & Francis

Previous research has proven the ‘gaydar’ to be a real phenomenon. Reliable predictions of sexual orientation have been made simply by hearing a voice or seeing a face.  This article in Cognition & Emotion asks who has better gaydar? Lesbian women or straight?  The expectation was that lesbians due to their experience of choosing partners would be more tuned in to others orientation.  The authors conducted a study which revealed some thought-provoking insights into who has greater interpersonal sensitivity.

The study entailed a mixture of lesbian and straight women watching video clips of a target group of women discussing family relationships and future life.  The watchers were asked to rate multiple aspects of the target group; what were they thinking?  What emotions they experienced? What type of personality did they have and overall were they gay or straight on a continuous scale of homosexuality?  This ground-breaking research stands out from previous studies which have primarily considered sexuality of men.  Thoughts, emotions and personality gave fascinating extra dimension. 

Contrary to expectation, it was observed that straight judges were more accurate assessors of thoughts and emotions.  Could lesbians be easier to read due to non-verbal communication?  Lesbians won out in terms of gaydar, they spotted their own orientation more easily.  Does the prominence of sexuality for lesbians enable a fine-tuned awareness of others sexuality?  Straight women appear more interested in thoughts and emotions: sexuality of other women seems to bear less importance for them.  This insightful article has given us a snapshot of how sexual orientation guides perceptions of multiple aspects of other individuals.  The authors urge more research on gay vs. straight communication methods and on how city vs. rural location affects outcomes.

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