How Might 'Gaydar' Work?

Most people evaluate others holistically. This study says gay people might be better at detail-oriented processing, paying more attention to subtle differences:

Homosexuals are believed to have a “sixth sense” for recognising each other, an ability referred to as gaydar. We considered that being a homosexual might rely on systematic practice of processing relatively specific, local perceptual features, which might lead to a corresponding chronic bias of attentional control. This was tested by comparing male and female homosexuals and heterosexuals – brought up in the same country and culture and matched in terms of race, intelligence, sex, mood, age, personality, religious background, educational style, and socio-economic situation – in their efficiency to process global and local features of hierarchically-constructed visual stimuli. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals showed better performance on global features – the standard global precedence effect. However, this effect was significantly reduced in homosexuals, suggesting a relative preference for detail. Findings are taken to demonstrate chronic, generalized biases in attentional control parameters that reflect the selective reward provided by the respective sexual orientation.

Source: Sexual orientation biases attentional control: a possible gaydar mechanism. Front. Psychology 1:13.

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