Some 130 University of Washington students were presented with just under 100 black-and-white photos of men and women — each one flashed for less than a second. Hairstyles, facial hair, makeup, and glasses were absent in all photos to sidestep "easy clues."
Participants, the study concluded, were able to accurately judge the sexual orientation of both the men and women in the photos over 50% of the time.
In fact, the sexual orientation of women were correctly guessed in two-thirds of all cases.
The study's author, psychology grad student Joshua Tabak, says the results are not too surprising. "It may be similar to how we don't have to think about whether someone is a man or a woman or black or white," he says. "This information confronts us in everyday life."
Though he readily admits "little is known about how these judgments are formed," Tabak notes that "People from older generations or different cultures who may not have grown up knowing they were interacting with gay people' could be less accurate in making gay versus straight judgments."