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Gay face includes an eye expression that is both surprised-looking and predatory.Eyebrows are usually arched higher than that of straight men, and eyebrow hair is manicured.Rather, the use of certain expressions can become ingrained in the musculature of the face over time.
There were several definitions of "gay face," including this derogatory doozy: "A man, usually homosexual, with a distinctly effete facial structure with some very specific features; a strong jawline [sic] that lacks prominence, space between the eyes that recall people with down syndrome [sic], and a sloping, long forehead." Now, that one's rather silly and sensationalized—even politically suspect—and there's certainly no scientific evidence in support of these claims about the "mongoloid" features of homosexual men's faces.
But perhaps there is a kernel of truth to another definition of "gay face" in the Urban Dictionary: "Gay men do not differ from straight men in the size and shape of any facial feature.
"Thus," the authors wrote, "by using photos of gay and straight individuals that they themselves did not post, we were able to remove the influence of self-presentation and much of the potential selection bias that may be present in photos from personal advertisements." Again, the authors superimposed these male faces (this time 80 gay and 80 straight) onto a white background.
They then photoshopped off the participants' hairstyles, this time truly leaving only the faces as a source of information about sexual orientation.
Surprisingly, all participants (both men and women) scored above chance on this gaydar task, correctly identifying the gay faces.
Even more surprisingly, accuracy rate was just as good when the images were exposed at a rapid rate of only 50 milliseconds, which offered participants no opportunity to consciously process the photo.To control for context, the faces were also cut and pasted onto a white background for the study.These 90 faces were then shown to 90 participants in random order, who were asked simply to judge the target's "probable sexual orientation" (gay or straight) by pressing a button.That is to say, people seem to have honed and calibrated their gaydar without knowing they've done so.Frankly, these findings are a little puzzling to me.And even with these more stringent controls, the participants were able to identify the gay faces at levels greater than chance—again even on those trials where the faces were flickered on the screen for a mere 50 milliseconds.