New research has revealed that gay men can recall familiar faces faster and more accurately than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to a study published in the journal, Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, this is due to the fact that, like women, gay men tend to use both sides of their brains.

Researchers from York University examined the influence of gender, sexual orientation and whether we’re right-or-left-handed on our ability to recognise faces.

Study participants were asked to memorise photographs of ten faces, and differentiate them from 50 others, shown to them for only milliseconds each. The images were rendered in black and white and edited to remove ears, hair and blemishes, which can serve as obvious identifying cues. Participants then had to relay which faces were new, as quickly and accurately as possible.

The results reveal that when memorising and discriminating between faces, homosexual men show patterns of bilaterality – the usage of both sides of the brain – similar to heterosexual women. Heterosexual men tend to favour the right hemisphere for such tasks.

“Our results suggest that both gay men and heterosexual women code faces bilaterally. That allows for faster retrieval of stored information,” says study lead author Jennifer Steeves, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health.

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