“Gaydar” is a pop-culture term for the ability to determine a person’s sexual orientation without their verbal confirmation of such, but a new study reveals that we may indeed be able to observe a person’s gayness or straightness through visual clues — most notably, pupil dilation.
One of the trickier parts of gathering data on sexual orientation is the basic fact that most data is self-reported — that is to say, it relies on how a person describes their sexual attraction and other genders versus an objective determination of what may turn them on. (So a closeted individual may not accurately report their orientation in a survey or study.)
But researchers seem to have determined a way to learn what piques a person sexually when it comes to gender and orientation, and it comes down to your eyes. Lead researcher for the study, Gerulf Rieger, aresearch fellow at Cornell University, says that previous tests relied not only on self-reporting, but on genital changes that made some participants uncomfortable.
Rieger explains that the new method eliminates some of the problems previously encountered when determining what types of sexual stimuli pique a participant:
“We wanted to find an alternative measure that would be an automatic indication of sexual orientation, but without being as invasive as previous measures. Pupillary responses are exactly that.”
Rieger says that now, gathering information from more diverse populations is possible:
“With this new technology we are able to explore sexual orientation of people who would never participate in a study on genital arousal, such as people from traditional cultures. This will give us a much better understanding how sexuality is expressed across the planet.”
The study on pupillary gaydar was published in the medical journal PLoS ONE.