Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 124–140 | Cite as

Dissecting “Gaydar”: Accuracy and the Role of Masculinity–Femininity

  • Gerulf RiegerEmail author
  • Joan A. W. Linsenmeier
  • Lorenz Gygax
  • Steven Garcia
  • J. Michael Bailey
Original Paper


“Gaydar” is the ability to distinguish homosexual and heterosexual people using indirect cues. We investigated the accuracy of gaydar and the nature of “gaydar signals” conveying information about sexual orientation. Homosexual people tend to be more sex atypical than heterosexual people in some behaviors, feelings, and interests. We hypothesized that indicators of sex atypicality might function as gaydar signals. In Study 1, raters judged targets’ sexual orientation from pictures, brief videos, and sound recordings. Sexual orientation was assessed with high, though imperfect, accuracy. In Study 2, different raters judged targets’ sex atypicality from the same stimuli. Ratings of sexual orientation from Study 1 corresponded highly with targets’ self-reports of sex atypicality and with observer ratings of sex atypicality from Study 2. Thus, brief samples of sex-atypical behavior may function as effective gaydar signals.


Sexual orientation Person perception Sex-typed behavior 


  1. Ambady, N., Bernieri, F. J., & Richeson, J. A. (2000). Toward a histology of social behavior: Judgmental accuracy from thin slices of the behavioral stream. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 201–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambady, N., Hallahan, M., & Conner, B. (1999). Accuracy of judgments of sexual orientation from thin slices of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 538–547.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1992). Thin slices of expressive behavior as predictors of interpersonal consequences: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 256–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aube, J., & Koestner, R. (1992). Gender characteristics and adjustment: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 485–493.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, J. M. (2003). The man who would be queen: The science of gender-bending and transsexualism. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bailey, J. M., Dunne, M. P., & Martin, N. G. (2000). Genetic and environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 524–536.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bailey, J. M., Finkel, E., Blackwelder, K., & Bailey, T. (1995). Masculinity, femininity, and sexual orientation. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  8. Bailey, J. M., Kim, P. Y., Hills, A., & Linsenmeier, J. A. W. (1997). Butch, femme, or straight acting? Partner preferences of gay men and lesbians. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 960–973.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31, 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barlow, D. H., Hayes, S. C., Nelson, R. O., Steele, D. L., Meeler, M. E., & Mills, J. R. (1979). Sex role motor behavior: A behavioral checklist. Behavioral Assessment, 1, 119–138.Google Scholar
  11. Beard, A., & Bakeman, R. (2000). Boyhood gender nonconformity: Reported parental behavior and the development of narcissistic issues. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 4, 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bell, A., Weinberg, M. S., & Hammersmith, S. K. (1981). Sexual preference: Its development in men and women. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155–162.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Berger, G., Hank, L., Rauzi, T., & Simkins, L. (1987). Detection of sexual orientation by heterosexuals and homosexuals. Journal of Homosexuality, 13, 83–100.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Carter, D., & McCloskey, L. A. (1983). Peers and the maintenance of sex-typed behavior: The development of children’s conceptions of cross-gender behavior in their peers. Social Cognition, 2, 294–314.Google Scholar
  16. Chivers, M. L., Rieger, G., Latty, E., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Psychological Science, 15, 736–744.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Constantinople, A. (1973). Masculinity–femininity: An exception to a famous dictum? Psychological Bulletin, 80, 389–407.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Diamond, L. M. (2008). Sexual fluidity: Understanding women’s love and desire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Fagot, B. I. (1977). Consequences of moderate cross-gender behavior in preschool children. Child Development, 48, 902–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fagot, B. I. (1985). Beyond the reinforcement principle: Another step toward understanding sex role development. Developmental Psychology, 21, 1097–1104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freund, K., & Blanchard, R. (1983). Is the distant relationship of fathers and homosexual sons related to the sons’ erotic preference for male partners, or to the sons’ atypical gender identity, or to both? Journal of Homosexuality, 9, 7–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Gaudio, R. (1994). Sounding gay: Pitch properties in the speech of gay and straight men. American Speech, 69, 30–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gilbert, D. T., & Osborne, R. E. (1989). Thinking backward: Some curable and incurable consequences of cognitive busyness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 940–949.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harry, J. (1983a). Defeminization and adult psychological well-being among male homosexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 12, 1–19.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Harry, J. (1983b). Parasuicide, gender, and gender deviance. Journal of Health & Social Behavior, 24, 350–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson, K. L., Gill, S., Reichman, V., & Tassinary, L. G. (2007). Swagger, sway, and sexuality: Judging sexual orientation from body motion and morphology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 321–334.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones, E. E. (1990). Interpersonal perception. New York: W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  29. Kite, M. E., & Deaux, K. (1987). Gender belief systems: Homosexuality and the implicit inversion theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 11, 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Landolt, M. A., Bartholomew, K., Saffrey, C., Oram, D., Perlman, D., & Bartholomew, K. (2004). Gender nonconformity, childhood rejection, and adult attachment: A study of gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 117–128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Laner, M. R. (1978). Media mating II: “Personals” advertisements of lesbian women. Journal of Homosexuality, 4, 41–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Laner, M. R., & Kamel, G. L. (1977). Media mating I: Newspaper “personals” ads of homosexual men. Journal of Homosexuality, 3, 149–162.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Linville, S. E. (1998). Acoustic correlates of perceived versus actual sexual orientation in men’s speech. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 50, 35–48.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Lippa, R. (1991). Some psychometric characteristics of gender diagnosticity measures: Reliability, validity, consistency across domains, and relationship to the big five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 1000–1011.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Lippa, R. (1995a). Do sex differences define gender-related individual differences within the sexes? Evidence from three studies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 349–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lippa, R. (1995b). Gender-related individual differences and psychological adjustment in terms of the big five and circumplex models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 1184–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lippa, R. (1998). The nonverbal display and judgment of extraversion, masculinity, femininity, and gender diagnosticity: A lens model analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 32, 80–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lippa, R. A. (2000). Gender-related traits in gay men, lesbian women, and heterosexual men and women: The virtual identity of homosexual–heterosexual diagnosticity and gender diagnosticity. Journal of Personality, 68, 899–926.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Lippa, R. A. (2005a). Gender, nature, and nurture (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  40. Lippa, R. A. (2005b). Sexual orientation and personality. Annual Review of Sex Research, 16, 119–153.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Lippa, R. A. (2006, April). Childhood gender nonconformity and adult personality in heterosexual and homosexual men and women. Paper presented at the Gender Development Conference, San Francisco, CA.Google Scholar
  42. Maccoby, E. E. (1998). The two sexes: Growing up apart, coming together. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  43. Moore, M. M. (1985). Nonverbal courtship patterns in women: Context and consequences. Ethology & Sociobiology, 6, 237–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Moore, M. M. (2002). Courtship communication and perception. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 94, 97–105.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Nicholas, C. L. (2004). Gaydar: Eye-gaze as identity recognition among gay men and lesbians. Sexuality & Culture, 8, 60–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pierrehumbert, J. B., Bent, T., Munson, B., Bradlow, A. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). The influence of sexual orientation on vowel production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 1905–1908.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Rahman, Q., & Wilson, G. D. (2003). Born gay? The psychobiology of human sexual orientation. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 1337–1382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Remafedi, G., French, S., Story, M., Resnick, M. D., & Blum, R. (1998). The relationship between suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population-based study. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 57–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: Evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology, 44, 46–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Saghir, M. T., & Robins, E. (1973). Male and female homosexuality: A comprehensive investigation. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  51. Skidmore, C. W., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., & Bailey, J. M. (2006). Gender nonconformity and psychological distress in lesbians and gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 685–697.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Smith, T. E., & Leaper, C. (2006). Self-perceived gender typicality and the peer context during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smyth, R., Jacobs, G., & Rogers, H. (2003). Male voices and perceived sexual orientation: An experimental and theoretical approach. Language in Society, 32, 329–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Spence, J. T., & Buckner, C. (1995). Masculinity and femininity: Defining the undefinable. In P. J. Kalbfleisch & M. J. Cody (Eds.), Gender, power, and communication in human relationships (pp. 105–138). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  55. Spence, J. T., & Helmreich, R. (1978). Masculinity and femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates and antecedents. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  56. Sylva, D., Sell, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2007). An audible minority: Homosexuality and speech. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  57. Tauber, M. A. (1979). Sex differences in parent–child interaction styles during a free-play session. Child Development, 50, 981–988.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weinrich, J. D., Grant, I., Jacobson, D. L., Robinson, S. R., McCutchan, J. A., & HNRC. (1992). Effects of recalled childhood gender nonconformity on adult genitoerotic role and AIDS exposure. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 21, 559–585.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilson, G. D., & Rahman, Q. (2005). Born gay? The psychobiology of sex orientation. London: Peter Owen.Google Scholar
  60. Zar, J. H. (1999). Biostatistical analysis (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  61. Zucker, K. J., Wilson-Smith, D. N., Kurita, J. A., & Stern, A. (1995). Children’s appraisals of sex-typed behavior in their peers. Sex Roles, 33, 703–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerulf Rieger
    • 1
  • Joan A. W. Linsenmeier
    • 1
  • Lorenz Gygax
    • 2
  • Steven Garcia
    • 1
  • J. Michael Bailey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, Agroscope TänikonEvanstonSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations