Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gay Or Straight? Body Type And Motion Reveals Sexual Orientation, Study Suggests

Date:
September 12, 2007
Source:
University of California, Los Angeles
Summary:
An individual's body motion and body type can offer subtle cues about their sexual orientation, but casual observers seem better able to read those cues in gay men than in lesbians, according to a new study. Based on measurements, the researchers determined that the gay subjects tended to have more gender-incongruent body types than their straight counterparts (hourglass figures for men, tubular bodies for women) and body motions (hip-swaying for men, shoulder-swaggering for women) than their straight counterparts.

Volunteers were filmed and analyzed as they walked on a treadmill for two minutes. Researchers noted that gay subjects tended to have more gender-incongruent body types than their straight counterparts (hourglass figures for men, tubular bodies for women) and body motions (hip-swaying for men, shoulder-swaggering for women) than their straight counterparts.
Credit: Image provided courtesy of APA

An individual's body motion and body type can offer subtle cues about their sexual orientation, but casual observers seem better able to read those cues in gay men than in lesbians, according to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"We already know that men and women are built differently and walk differently from each other and that casual observers use this information as clues in making a range of social judgments," said lead author Kerri Johnson, UCLA assistant professor of communication studies. "Now we've found that casual observers can use gait and body shape to judge whether a stranger is gay or straight with a small but perceptible amount of accuracy."

Johnson and colleagues at New York University and Texas A&M measured the hips, waists and shoulders of eight male and eight female volunteers, half of whom were gay and half straight. The volunteers then walked on a treadmill for two minutes as a three-dimensional motion-capture system similar to those used by the movie industry to create animated figures from living models made measurements of the their motions, allowing researchers to track the precise amount of shoulder swagger and hip sway in their gaits.

Based on these measurements, the researchers determined that the gay subjects tended to have more gender-incongruent body types than their straight counterparts (hourglass figures for men, tubular bodies for women) and body motions (hip-swaying for men, shoulder-swaggering for women) than their straight counterparts.

In addition, 112 undergraduate observers were shown videos of the backsides of the volunteers as they walked at various speeds on the treadmill. The observers were able to determine the volunteers' sexual orientation with an overall rate of accuracy that exceeded chance, even though they could not see the volunteers' faces or the details of their clothing. Interestingly, the casual observers were much more accurate in judging the orientation of males than females; they correctly categorized the sexual orientation of men with more than 60 percent accuracy, but their categorization of women did not exceeded chance.

The findings build on recent research that shows that casual observers can often correctly identify sexual orientation with very limited information. A 1999 Harvard study, for example, found that just by looking at the photographs of seated strangers, college undergraduates were able to judge sexual orientation accurately 55 percent of the time.

"Studies like ours are raising questions about the value of the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," Johnson said. "If casual observers can determine sexual orientation with minimal information, then the value in concealing this information certainly appears questionable. Given that we all appear to be able to deduce this information to some degree with just a glance, more comprehensive policies may be required to protect gays against discrimination based on their sexual orientation."

The findings also are part of mounting evidence suggesting that sexual orientation may actually be what social scientists call a "master status category," or a defining characteristic that observers cannot help but notice and which has been scientifically shown to color all subsequent social dealings with others.

"Once you know a person's sexual orientation, the fact has consequences for all subsequent interactions, and our findings suggest that this category of information can be deduced from subtle clues in body movement," Johnson said.

Reference: Kerri L. Johnson, Simone Gill, Victoria Reichman, and Louis G. Tassinary "Swagger, Sway, and Sexuality: Judging Sexual Orientation From Body Motion and Morphology", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 93, No. 3, pp. 321–334.

Video available at: http://www.apa.org/journals/supplemental/psp_93_3_321/Supplement1.mov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, Los Angeles. "Gay Or Straight? Body Type And Motion Reveals Sexual Orientation, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911102649.htm>.
University of California, Los Angeles. (2007, September 12). Gay Or Straight? Body Type And Motion Reveals Sexual Orientation, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911102649.htm
University of California, Los Angeles. "Gay Or Straight? Body Type And Motion Reveals Sexual Orientation, Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911102649.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Brain Function, Study Says

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) Researchers found an improvement in memory and learning function in subjects who received electric pulses to their brains. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins