Perceptions of Sexual Orientation From Minimal Cues

Abstract

People derive considerable amounts of information about each other from minimal nonverbal cues. Apart from characteristics typically regarded as obvious when encountering another person (e.g., age, race, and sex), perceivers can identify many other qualities about a person that are typically rather subtle. One such feature is sexual orientation. Here, I review the literature documenting the accurate perception of sexual orientation from nonverbal cues related to one’s adornment, acoustics, actions, and appearance. In addition to chronicling studies that have demonstrated how people express and extract sexual orientation in each of these domains, I discuss some of the basic cognitive and perceptual processes that support these judgments, including how cues to sexual orientation manifest in behavioral (e.g., clothing choices) and structural (e.g., facial morphology) signals. Finally, I attend to boundary conditions in the accurate perception of sexual orientation, such as the states, traits, and group memberships that moderate individuals’ ability to reliably decipher others’ sexual orientation.

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Acknowledgments

The author has received research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

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Rule, N.O. Perceptions of Sexual Orientation From Minimal Cues. Arch Sex Behav 46, 129–139 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0779-2

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Keywords

  • Appearance
  • Behavior
  • Clothing
  • Gaydar
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social psychology
  • Voices