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To control for context, the faces were also cut and pasted onto a white background for the study.
These 90 faces were then shown to 90 participants in random order, who were asked simply to judge the target's "probable sexual orientation" (gay or straight) by pressing a button.
But they also acknowledge that it's impossible to know from these findings what exactly it is about these facial features that give gays away.
In this second study, the authors used images from the social networking site Facebook rather than online dating Web sites.
This way, the targets hadn't so obviously selected photos of themselves meant to attract prospective sexual partners.
A parsimonious explanation for these findings would be that the countenance of these photos—an online dating site—means that they're likely stereotypical in some way.
In other words, perhaps it's not the target's face per se that signals his sexual orientation, but the way he expresses himself facially when trying to attract a member of the same or the opposite gender.
In an initial experiment, researchers Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady from Tufts University perused online dating sites and carefully selected 45 straight male faces and 45 gay male faces.