Aug 06, 2012 11:17 AM GMT
Pointless to some and a bit too eugenically flavored in my opinion, but thought I'd share anyway. Researchers say when you look at something sexual, your eyes are likely revealing your sexual orientation.
HuffPoWhether you're gay, straight or somewhere else on the spectrum, the truth of who attracts you could be in your eyes.
Pupil dilation is an accurate indicator of sexual orientation, a new study finds. When people look at erotic images and become aroused, their pupils open up in an unconscious reaction that could be used to study orientation and arousal without invasive genital measurements.
The new study is first large-scale experiment to show that pupil dilation matches what people report feeling turned on by, said study researcher Ritch Savin-Williams, a developmental psychologist at Cornell University.
"So if a man says he's straight, his eyes are dilating towards women," Savin-Williams told LiveScience. "And the opposite with gay men, their eyes are dilating to men." (snip)
Traditionally, researchers have studied arousal and sexual orientation by asking volunteers to watch erotic movies or pictures while attached to instruments that measure blood flow to the genitals. For men, this involves a circumference measurement of the penis, while women use a probe that measures pressure change in the blood vessels of the vaginal walls.
These measurements have drawbacks, Savin-Williams said. Some people can suppress their genital arousal, or simply don't have genital responses in a laboratory environment. And then there's the invasiveness issue.
"Some people just don't want to be involved in research that involves their genitals," Savin-Williams said.
Simply asking people if a given stimulus turns them on or not is equally problematic, as people may be ashamed to admit their desires or even deny them to themselves. It's also difficult to ask direct questions about sexual orientation in many cultures, Savin-Williams said.
To get around these issues, Savin-Williams and his colleague Gerulf Rieger, also of Cornell University, turned to the pupils. They recruited 165 men and 160 women, including gay, straight and bisexual participants. These volunteers watched separate one-minute videos of a man masturbating, a woman masturbating and neutral landscape scenes. The videos were all matched for brightness so that differences in light wouldn't skew the results.
A gaze-tracking camera recorded the pupils during these videos, measuring tiny changes in pupil size. People also reported their own feelings of arousal to each video.
The results showed that pupil dilation matches the pattern seen in genital arousal studies. In men, this pattern is generally straightforward: Straight men respond to sexual images of women, and gay men respond to sexual images of men. Bisexual men respond to both men and women.
In women, things are more complex, Savin-Williams said. Gay women show more pupil dilation to images of other women, similar to the pattern seen in straight men. But straight women dilate basically equally in response to erotic images of both sexes, despite reporting feelings of arousal for men and not women. (snip)
The researchers detail their findings today (Aug. 3) in the journal PLoS ONE. The next step, Savin-Williams said, is to look at pupil measurements and genital measurements at the same time, to test how well they correspond.
Eventually, he said, this technology could be used to conduct cross-cultural studies of sexuality, given that pupil dilation is universal and doesn't depend on labels of sexual orientation that may not translate across all languages. The method could even be used to help people who are confused about their sexuality sort through their desires, Savin-Williams said.