Medicine | News

New Study Shows Sexual Orientation Revealed by One's Eyes

A new study reveals that sexual orientation can be detected by looking at the pupils of our eyes.

EyeScience Daily reports:

For the first time, researchers at Cornell University used a specialized infrared lens to measure pupillary changes to participants watching erotic videos. Pupils were highly telling: they widened most to videos of people who participants found attractive, thereby revealing where they were on the sexual spectrum from heterosexual to homosexual.

The findings were published August 3 in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Previous research explored these mechanisms either by simply asking people about their sexuality, or by using physiological measures such as assessing their genital arousal. These methods, however, come with substantial problems.

"We wanted to find an alternative measure that would be an automatic indication of sexual orientation, but without being as invasive as previous measures. Pupillary responses are exactly that," says Gerulf Rieger, lead author and research fellow at Cornell. "With this new technology we are able to explore sexual orientation of people who would never participate in a study on genital arousal, such as people from traditional cultures. This will give us a much better understanding how sexuality is expressed across the planet."

Justin Lehmiller adds:

The idea for this study came out of past research indicating that our pupils naturally dilate when we see something interesting. This is an involuntary response activated by our autonomic nervous system, a bodily system that controls breathing, digestion, heart rate, and many other automatic processes. Pupil dilation is therefore something that it unlikely to be under a person’s conscious control. One previous study conducted in the 1960s found that people’s pupils tend to dilate when they see sexually arousing imagery, but that study only looked at a total of 10 participants (half heterosexual and half homosexual), all of whom were men.

In the new study, 325 men and women of varying sexualities (heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual) watched a series of one-minute video clips in random order. The video content was either a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, or a neutral landscape. A gaze-tracking camera measured the size of participants’ pupils every two milliseconds as the videos were shown. All videos were of equivalent brightness to ensure that changes in light did not affect pupil size.

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. Oh, please. Like I said earlier, let's talk about something important: Usain Bolt's butt. Talk about widening pupils.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Aug 6, 2012 2:44:00 PM

  2. Cool! I was a participant in this study. It's cool to see the results now.

    Posted by: Cam | Aug 6, 2012 2:48:43 PM

  3. So the complex nature of human sexuality is determined by how our pupils react to a video of someone mastrubating? Fascinating.

    Posted by: Steve | Aug 6, 2012 2:51:07 PM

  4. Umm, does this freak anyone else out a little? I can see some totalitarian Xtian regime using eye scanners to send gays to death camps.

    Posted by: AJ | Aug 6, 2012 2:51:50 PM

  5. "With this new technology we are able to explore sexual orientation of people who would never participate in a study on genital arousal, such as people from traditional cultures. This will give us a much better understanding how sexuality is expressed across the planet."
    These people from traditional cultures also will not watch porns in front of the researchers.

    Posted by: simon | Aug 6, 2012 2:54:34 PM

  6. This kind of reminds me of the Voight-Kampff test from Blade Runner.

    And yes, it's unnerving and will probably be used for evil.

    Posted by: Polyboy | Aug 6, 2012 2:56:13 PM

  7. Well now, this was a real eye-opener! >sorry<

    Posted by: TJ | Aug 6, 2012 2:56:17 PM

  8. Cool! I was a participant in this study. It's cool to see the results now.

    Hush, CAM. You wouldn't want your mother to find out that her baby boy does porn for scientific studies.

    But what exactly did you do to make people's pupils pop?

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Aug 6, 2012 3:02:02 PM

  9. Okay Mr Cruise and Mr Travolta look into the magic scanner and watch the pretty pictures.

    Posted by: Iwontgrowup | Aug 6, 2012 3:02:19 PM

  10. The problem with this approach is that eyes also dilate when you are freaked out by something. "Interested" could also reply to people who were surprised or horrified.

    Posted by: Yeek | Aug 6, 2012 3:10:14 PM

  11. Hardly news to anyone who has ever had their eyes meet another person's eyes across a crowded room and liked what they saw.

    Posted by: james | Aug 6, 2012 3:12:44 PM

  12. Here it is, Polyboy

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 6, 2012 3:12:44 PM

  13. Which idiot decided to make this public ? This method can now be used by terrible governments to find gay people and maybe torture or kill them ! Way to go morons !

    Posted by: Icebloo | Aug 6, 2012 3:22:45 PM

  14. This "technology" was used in Canada in the 60s to root out queers from the country's government, the RCMP, and the military. They called it...THE FRUIT MACHINE. I'm not kidding.

    Posted by: Jay-Squiggle | Aug 6, 2012 3:30:56 PM

  15. Don't let the Religious Reich get ahold of this one - they'll start mandating tests and segregating their congregations.

    Posted by: azpunky | Aug 6, 2012 3:32:50 PM

  16. An informative article--but please take a little more time to proofread next time. A word processor CANNOT catch everything.

    Posted by: Ernst Röhm's Ghost | Aug 6, 2012 3:46:24 PM

  17. By your eyes? When I first read that I thought it meant with or without eyeliner?

    Posted by: Josh | Aug 6, 2012 3:53:10 PM

  18. I've always assumed that studying eye response could correctly identify sexual orientation (and it need not be to porn). For example, I can imagine if a researcher had taken me in kindergarten and showed me a photo of a group of people which included a remarkably handsome man and pretty woman. I have no doubt my eyes would have scanned the faces and then lingered to study the handsome man's face. I'm quite sure that such a study, if followed up on three decades later, would show a strong correlation to adult sexual orientation.

    Like others, I do have concerns on how this could be misused by homophobes.

    It is also laughable to think that "people from traditional cultures" who would not consent to measuring their erectile response would automatically have no problem consenting to having their pupil's response measured while they watch people masturbating.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 6, 2012 4:03:14 PM

  19. I assume they can control for false positives.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 6, 2012 4:04:54 PM

  20. True. This has been known since at least the 60s, nothing new here.

    BTW: the pupil dilation comes and goes in a split second.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 6, 2012 4:10:21 PM

  21. And the next thing a study like this will come up is to tell people that when someone sneezes they probably had first inhaled the air. I mean come on. seriously.

    Posted by: Alejo | Aug 6, 2012 4:18:42 PM

  22. I think the sentiment that governments or churches will somehow be able to impose this technology is strangely paranoid. You honestly think that they're going to start showing porn to every citizen and assessing their responses? Even Iran, North Korea, and Uganda aren't going to do that. They prosecute behavior, not desire or intent.

    The notion of "rounding up the gays" pretty much died out a few decades ago aside from the most backward regimes.

    Posted by: Paul R | Aug 6, 2012 4:20:30 PM

  23. Your people are paranoid about potential misuse of this method.

    Posted by: AG | Aug 6, 2012 4:22:24 PM

  24. Why use it at all?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Aug 6, 2012 4:29:25 PM

  25. It's all a little Clockwork Orange-y for me. Weeding out undesirables with the new and improved Ludovico homo-detecto.

    Posted by: Otkon | Aug 6, 2012 4:56:41 PM

  26. 1 2 »

Post a comment


« «Mars Orbiter Sees 'Curiosity' Probe as it Lands by Parachute: PHOTO« «