People can accurately judge the sexual orientation of others based on body type and motion, suggests a study released in the September issue of Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology.
Researchers at New York University and Texas A&M note that previous studies have shown men and women generally have different body types and walk differently. The aim of their study was to see if these traits could affect how people guess the sexuality of others.
“Body shape affected perceived sexual orientation of women, but motion affected perceived sexual orientation of both men and women,” the study suggests.
Researchers asked a group of 16 gay and straight volunteers to walk on treadmills while a motion-capture system recorded their movement. A group of 112 undergraduate students watched the videos and then categorized the subjects as gay or straight.
The observers accurately categorized the sexual orientation of the walkers 55 percent of the time, which the survey notes is “significantly above chance.”
Researchers also measured the hips, waists, and shoulders of volunteers, and they suggest that one’s body type can affect sexual orientation judgments. Men with big hips and women who do not have hourglass figures were more likely to be categorized as homosexual.
But for men, apparently it’s the walk — not so much the body type — that people use to guess one’s sexuality.
“When judging sexual orientation, observers rely on cues that can be displayed electively, such as mannerisms and walk motion,” says the survey.
It notes that this reliance on mannerisms may be challenged in coming years as “cues that were once exclusive to gay men are increasingly being adopted by straight men, leading to new terms such as metrosexual.”