The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

A new paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggesting that computers have better “gaydar” than humans made quite a media splash this week. Specifically, this study found that a machine algorithm correctly classified 81% of men and 74% of women as either gay or straight; by contrast, human judges correctly classified just 61% of men and 54% of women in terms of their sexual orientation.

These findings have raised a lot of ethical concerns, with many gay rights groups expressing worry about how such findings could potentially be used for nefarious purposes.

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Does “Gaydar” Really Exist? Here’s What the Science Says

Does “Gaydar” Really Exist? Here’s What the Science Says

The intuitive ability to determine whether or not someone is gay is known colloquially as “gaydar.” When people use their gaydar, they attempt to make inferences about someone else’s sexual interests based upon minimal information, such as the way a person dresses, walks, or talks. Gaydar has been the subject of a fair amount of controversy as of late, with some scientists arguing that it’s real and others claiming that it’s a myth. So what’s the deal—is there something to this or not?

Social psychologist Nicholas Rule pulled together all of the available research on this topic in a new paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (this paper is part of a forthcoming special issue devoted to “the puzzle of sexual orientation”—for coverage of other articles in this issue, see here and here). Here are some of the key highlights from Rule’s review of the literature

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How Accurate Is “Gaydar?”

Gaydar refers to the ability to categorize people as gay or straight on the basis of indirect information (e.g., a person’s speech patterns or movement). Gaydar is used by people of all sexualities for a variety of purposes. For instance, gays and lesbians may use it to decode flirtation, whereas heterosexual persons may simply use it to figure out who’s who. So how good are people at making these categorizations and what it is that people are actually paying attention to? A recent set of studies published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that gaydar judgments are reasonably accurate, and that judgments of sexuality are linked to sex role stereotypes.1
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5 Myths About Homosexuality Debunked By Science

There are countless myths and stereotypes about gays and lesbians spanning everything from their mannerisms to their sex lives to the nature of their relationships. In this article, I will review five of the most common myths and evaluate them in light of what scientific research has to say.

MYTH #1: Gay men sleep around a lot more than straight men.

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