Researchers Discover Race's Effect on Gaydar

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com September 07 2011 6:35 PM ET

A new study suggests that everyone has "gaydar," but the fabled tool for intuitively knowing who is gay might get jammed by race.

Science Daily  reports that researchers at the University of Toronto asked participants to pull a joystick toward them whenever they saw white men in a slide show of faces and to push the joystick away whenever they saw black men. (And then vice versa.) It's a typical way of measuring subconscious prejudice.

But this time researchers mixed in the faces of gay men — without divulging that they're gay — and tracked the response time.

Participants who were asked to pick out the white faces reacted faster to straight men than gay. But the opposite was true when participants were asked to pick out the black faces. People were more receptive to black gay men than straight.

The pecking order was also evident when participants were simply asked to rate the faces for likability on a scale of one (not likable) to seven (extremely likable). Straight white men were more likable than gay white men. But straight black men were less likable than gay black men.

"We observed that people judge others based on sexual orientation even if they are not consciously aware of whether someone is gay or straight," said study author Jessica Remedios in a statement explaining the research. "These findings suggest that sexual orientation, despite lacking explicit perceptual markers, infiltrates the automatic impression that is formed. Further, our judgment of gay men depends on whether they are white or black."