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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
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An Eye for Sexual Orientation
18 January 2008 (All day)
Talk about "gaydar." In just a fraction of a second, people can accurately judge the sexual orientation of other individuals by glancing at their faces, according to new research. The finding builds on the growing theory that the subconscious mind detects and probably guides much more of human behavior than is realized.
Humans are remarkably good at making snap judgments about others. In a hallmark study conducted by psychologists Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal in 1994, people shown 2-second video clips of professors teaching formed opinions about the professors' teaching abilities that were uncannily similar to evaluations written by students at the end of a semester. The results led psychologists to begin questioning what else people might detect in a glance.
Ambady and colleague Nicholas Rule, both at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, wondered about sexual orientation. They showed men and women photos of 90 faces belonging to homosexual men and heterosexual men for intervals ranging from 33 milliseconds to 10 seconds. When given 100 milliseconds or more to view a face, participants correctly identified sexual orientation nearly 70% of the time. Volunteers were less accurate at shorter durations, and their accuracy did not get better at durations beyond 100 milliseconds, the team reports in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. "What is most interesting is that increased exposure time did not improve the results," says Ambady.
Romantic attraction likely works just as fast, notes psychologist Paul Eastwick of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. "If people make accurate judgments about sexually relevant aspects of a person this quickly," he says, "you have to stop and wonder how we size up one another's romantic potential in a matter of milliseconds."
Psychologist David Kenny of the University of Connecticut, Storrs, says the finding demonstrates the brain's remarkable ability to make fast yet accurate appraisals. Still, he notes that with some of the images, accuracy regularly fell below 50%. It's possible that some faces are just hard to read.