“Research has shown that people are able to judge sexual orientation from faces with above-chance accuracy, but little is known about how these judgments are formed. Here, we investigated the importance of well-established face processing mechanisms in such judgments: featural processing (e.g., an eye) and configural processing (e.g., spatial distance between eyes). Participants judged sexual orientation from faces presented for 50 milliseconds either upright, which recruits both configural and featural processing, or upside-down, when configural processing is strongly impaired and featural processing remains relatively intact. Although participants judged women’s and men’s sexual orientation with above-chance accuracy for upright faces and for upside-down faces, accuracy for upside-down faces was significantly reduced. The reduced judgment accuracy for upside-down faces indicates that configural face processing significantly contributes to accurate snap judgments of sexual orientation.”
Bonus figure from the full text:
Figure 1. Sample stimuli from the sexual orientation detection task.
(a) Example female face and backward mask (Experiments 1 and 2) and example male face and backward mask (Experiment 1); (b) lightened male face and backward mask (upside-down; Experiment 2).
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