By Laura Shin
Posting in Environment
It sounds impossible: to tell whether someone is gay or straight. But science says you can do it just by looking at the eyes.
Ah, if only "gaydar" were as scientific as it sounds.
But since it's not (and is instead based on completely unreliable stereotypes), science keeps looking to improve on it, such as a new study which claims that the secret to detecting a person's sexual orientation is in the pupils.
Basically, a person's pupils dilate when looking at someone they find attractive. Based on this premise, the researchers have created an experiment that vastly improves upon previous sexual orientation tests, which relied on invasive genital monitoring.
While testing by looking at the eyes is an improvement, the test has its own limitations: you can't conduct the pupil measurements with the naked eye.
Why previous experiments were faulty
This study shows that the way previous researchers had been going about it wasn't getting the best results.
Usually, researchers would ask study participants to watch erotic movies or look at such pictures while instruments measured blood flow to their genitals. For men, the circumference of their penis was measured, and women would be monitored with a probe that measures pressures changes in the blood vessels of the vaginal walls.
But Ritch Savin-Williams, the developmental psychologist at Cornell University who conducted this latest experiment said that some people don't have genital responses in a lab environment or they can suppress their arousal.
Also, he added, "Some people just don't want to be involved in research that involves their genitals," Savin-Williams said. (Gee, wonder why?)
Other experiments that simply asked a person if he or she was aroused were also problematic, because some people may not admit their own desires, and in certain cultures, such questions were not easy to ask.
How the latest study differed
The premise of his study, however, was based on the fact that pupils dilate in response to any stimulus a person finds exciting or interesting. So, even a beautiful art work or your sister's face will cause this involuntary response in your eyes, much the way your body involuntarily breathes.
Savin-Williams and his colleague Gerulf Rieger, also of Cornell University, gathered 165 male and 160 female participants of all sexual orientations. The volunteers watched one-minute videos: one of a man masturbating, one of a woman masturbating and the last of neutral landscape scenes. The brightness of the videos was kept constant so that it wouldn't affect the dilation of their pupils.
A gaze-tracking camera recorded changes in pupil size while these participants watched the videos, and the researchers also asked them to report their own feelings of arousal to each video.
The results in this study matched the pattern seen in previous genital arousal studies: Straight men respond to sexual imagery of women, bisexual women to images of both sexes and gay men to images of men.
In women things are a bit different: The pupils of gay women dilate more when they see images of other women, but straight women's pupils dilate equally when shown erotic images of both sexes, even if they report feelings of arousal only for men and not women.
(This effect has been seen in other experiments, and the reasons aren't exactly clear. One theory is that because women throughout history have been at risk of rape, their bodies would prepare physically by responding to any sexual stimulus, even if it was unappealing.)
The benefit of this new method of detecting sexuality, which Savin-Williams said could be used to help people who are confused about their sexuality, is that it could be used in cross-cultural studies of sexuality. Hey -- anything that does away with experiments that measure genital arousal in a lab environment sounds like an improvement in science.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Surgery for female genital mutilation restores sexual pleasure
- Riding bikes harmful to female sexual health
- Study finds hormone that predicts how long love will last
- The no-nose bike saddle faces a marketing problem
- Your spit reveals your age, scientists say
via: The Huffington Post
photo: Laurinemily/Wikimedia Commons
Aug 9, 2012
n women things are a bit different: The pupils of gay women dilate more when they see images of other women, but straight womenâs pupils dilate equally when shown erotic images of both sexes, even if they report feelings of arousal only for men and not women. http://antiagingcentral.com/
The study mentions bisexual women. They do not mention bisexual men. Why? There are no bisexual men?
all this proves is what I've known for decades...everyone is born bi...your environment, religion and/or your peers direct you to one direction or another. OR you find yourself unaffected by those forces. Bisexuality is evident from birth and doesn't actually go away...it's just masked or diverted
Lots of things dilate the pupils: Death Getting the crap scared out of you seeing something you like seeing something you don't like I honestly do not see the logic in a government funded university wasting our money to study something that is already debatable.
Junk science is whatever research has a result you don't like. Personally, I like anything that makes it harder for people to lie about their orientation(s). Imagine all the right-wing family values types, walking around with their eyes shut: "Please don't measure my pupils, please don't measure my pupils..."
"The benefit of this new method of detecting sexuality, " The whole tone of the article, makes it sound like some sort of police sobriety-style test - If you fail, do you get written up for a ticket in Salt Lake City?
Nihil est novum sub sole - In China, for centuries part of the 'tradecraft' of jade and furniture merchants was to watch pupil dilation as a 'tell' to guage if a customer was interested in a particular piece (and adjust the price accordingly) - and customers would take great effort in masking their responses.
This maybe will shut up the morality police, the GOP and religions will have to quit chastising people for the way they were born. Why it is so hard for them to accept this in this day and age I cannot fathom. If people can be born with both female and male body parts, why is it so hard to believe their brains may not have developed differently than how their body is physically?
This does not concern the morality of a persons sexuality. denny is pointing out, what I agree with, is that many things can make the pupils dilate. The accuracy of this studys conclusions are questionable at best. They could have flagged a subject as gay because of how their pupils dilated when the actual cause might have been their revulsion to the subject matter. Your attitude is not very open minded about having a science based discussion. You went right to claiming bigotry when the discussion was in a science direction. Cry wolf much? Like playing the victim card often? Pathetic way to live. Always claiming to be a victim.