Can Gays Be Outed By Their Vowels?
Can somebody determine your sexual orientation just by listening to you say a single word?Sure can, according to a team of Ohio State University psychologists.
“I’m not sure what exactly the listeners are responding to in the vowel,” study lead author Erik C. Tracy, a cognitive psychologist at Ohio State University, said in a news release from the American Institute of Physics. “Other researchers have done various acoustic analyses to understand why gay and heterosexual men produce vowels differently. Whatever this difference is, it seems that listeners are using it to make this sexual orientation decision.”
In order to understand how this process works, Tracy and a colleague focused on one characteristic — sexual orientation. They asked seven gay and seven heterosexual males to record single-syllable words (including “mass,” “food” and “sell”) and then played the recordings for listeners. The study participants were then asked to identify the sexual orientation of the speakers when hearing only the first letter sound of those words, the first two letter sounds, or the entire words.
The listeners were unable to determine the sexual orientation after hearing the sound of the first letter in the spoken word, for example, just the “m” sound in the word “mass.” But, “when presented with the first two letter sounds [for example "ma"], listeners were 75 percent accurate,” Tracy said. “We believe that listeners are using the acoustic information contained in vowels to make this sexual orientation decision,” he explained.
Food for thought, eh?