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That is to say, people seem to have honed and calibrated their gaydar without knowing they've done so.

Frankly, these findings are a little puzzling to me.

Or maybe hairstyles are suggestive of sexual orientation.

Wary of these possible criticisms, Rule and Ambady conducted a second experiment that controlled for such extraneous variables as self-presentation and hairstyle.

Gay face includes an eye expression that is both surprised-looking and predatory.

Eyebrows are usually arched higher than that of straight men, and eyebrow hair is manicured.

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.

They first searched for men who'd indicated in their Facebook profile an interest in other men.

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.

All of these photos were matched for orientation (only faces shown looking forward were used) and facial alterations (none of the images contained jewelry, glasses or facial hair).

"Future studies," the authors wrote, "may wish to examine what aspects of these features lead to accurate judgments, what their origins might be, and how we acquire the ability to detect them." I was curious enough about Rule's findings to look up "gay face" in the Urban Dictionary, a popular Web site that offers informal, user-contributed definitions of everyday (often crass) sayings.

I like the Urban Dictionary because it captures people's understanding and use of words and phrases independent of their actual meaning; it's therefore as much a gauge of human psychology as it is a compendium of slang.Rather, the use of certain expressions can become ingrained in the musculature of the face over time.