Study: eyes reveal sexual orientation

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Pupil reaction as an indicator of sexual orientation

The sexual orientation can be read from the eyes. As US researchers report in the journal "PLoS ONE", the pupil dilation when viewing the preferred gender "is usually a reliable indicator of sexual orientation." The present scientific work provides numerous opportunities for further research.

In their study, the US researchers led by Gerulf Rieger from Cornell University in Ithaca demonstrated that the pupil reaction when viewing men and women in irritating poses differs according to their sexual orientation. For example, the pupil of heterosexual people widened when they looked at people of the opposite sex. In homosexual subjects, the researchers observed the same reaction when looking at same-sex and bisexuals showed dilation of the pupils in both men and women. The discovery of the connection could offer significant advantages in future studies, since sexual orientation has so far been objectively only possible with the help of measurements of genital arousal. Many test subjects perceive this as an intimate intervention, so that the determination based on the pupil reaction offers a clear advantage here, the US scientists report.

Pupil response of 325 subjects analyzed As part of their study, the researchers led by Gerulf Rieger examined the pupil response of 325 men and women while they were exposed to various sexual stimuli. When viewing erotic videos of men or women, the test subjects showed clear differences in the dilation of the pupils. It has long been suspected that the involuntary reaction of the eyes subconsciously reflects sexual orientation, but there is no scientific evidence for this so far, the US scientists justified their study. After asking the test subjects about their sexual orientation, they showed the 160 women and 165 men erotic video excerpts and observed the pupil reaction with the help of a special camera that records the eye movement, direction of view and the width of the pupils.

Eye as a mirror of sexual orientation? The aim was not only to find out whether the eyes actually make the sexual orientation recognizable, but the researchers also checked other hypotheses, such as whether “the correspondence of the pupil dilation to male or female sexual stimuli with the self-reported sexual orientation in men was stronger than with women. ”The general assumption that heterosexual men react less strongly to the same sex than heterosexual women has been examined more closely in the context of current research - and refuted. Overall, the pupils of heterosexual men and women widened the most when they saw the opposite sex, while homosexual subjects showed a clear pupil dilation when they saw their own sex in erotic situations. Bisexual subjects reacted in a similar way to both genders. But the researchers also noticed some unusual subtleties.

Heterosexual men are also sometimes interested in their own sex. For example, the reaction of the pupils did not always correspond to what the test persons said about their sexual orientation. Thus, the pupils of men and women who classified themselves as heterosexual occasionally widened when they saw members of their own sex. Men were by no means excluded. Although it was previously assumed that men tend to have a stricter separation of homosexual and heterosexual preferences than women, surprisingly many men also showed a pupil dilation when looking at their own gender. This result contradicts the prejudice about men's sexuality, according to Rieger and colleagues. "We can clearly prove that there are not only women with flexible sexual desires," emphasized the co-author of the study, Ritch Savin-Williams. According to the US researchers, the current division into gay, heterosexual and bi is no longer sufficient to capture the recognizable gradations.

Pupil reaction makes sexual orientation measurable The evaluation of the data obtained showed that the pupil reaction correlated strongly with the sexual orientation. “If a test person always shows the same involuntary reaction to the images during the 45-minute test phase, then this indicates that this is a reliable signal,” says the US scientists. For the first time, with the current study, they were able to prove to a large number of people that the pupil reaction can provide measurable information about sexual orientation, Rieger and colleagues write in the specialist magazine "PLoS ONE". For the research, the determination of the sexual orientation by means of the pupil reaction offers promising new approaches, since so far the only way to measure the sexual orientation was in sensors directly on the genitals. This intimate and uncomfortable method was out of the question for most people.

Research can benefit from the new findings on the pupil reaction "We wanted to find a less invasive method" to make the sexual orientation measurable, emphasized Rieger and added: "The pupil reaction is exactly that." In this way, the sexual orientation of people can be researched, without subjecting them to the uncomfortable measurement of genital arousal. The measurement of the pupil reaction also offers a possibility, for example, to analyze the sexual orientation of primitive people. In this way, a comparison could be made with the sexual orientation in modern societies. Ultimately, such research could help to decode the biological basis of human sexuality, write Rieger and colleagues. (fp)

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