Can A Person's Sexual Preference Be Determined Through This Test

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Background If you have clicked on this article with drooling anticipation of some more titillation on how ice-cubes are symbols of sexuality or if you have dropped by with an eye-rolling expression of "oh no, no more sex-subliminality chatter!": let me assure you, this article is neither.If you are still reading this, thanks. For not clicking away that is. This article takes a critical view of the entire media role in hyping up the very sober and self-enhancing concept of subliminality. And tries to analyze the latest research done by scientists on how visual subliminal priming works on us humans.If you never knew what subliminality was, and if you happened to review the entire literature that popular media has thrown up since the late fifties, you will come away with the kind of heady feeling that you get after seeing a thriller movie. It's the kind of movie that has oodles of sex, dark and somber mind control, deception, Cold War & communist spies, thought police, and what have you. I wouldn't blame you - it is the media that is responsible for the misinformation and hype.Meanderings in Research Because of the way Subliminality in general and visual subliminal messaging in specific has evolved -- publicity-stunts raising concerns in the minds of the public about its alleged devious use by cynical ad agencies;- prompting governments to take extreme, albeit knee-jerk reactions such as declaring a ban on all forms of subliminal advertising;- and respectable authors churning out sensational books on "hidden persuaders";... Research on this subject has historically taken the road of proving how all this claim of "subliminal advertising" was a hoax. Perhaps that was the need of the hour. Perhaps it was expected in the society of the times that science steps in to assuage the then fears of the lay public that "subliminal advertising" and "subliminality" were nothing but a figment of imagination of the scandalmongers.It is only in recent times that research is giving a more holistic treatment to subliminality. The baton has passed on from the labs of social psychology to the labs of Behavioral Neuroscience. As the EEG probes of the neurosurgeon go deeper into the functioning of the brain, trying to understand how this mysterious organ behaves the way it does, more accurate light is being thrown on how subliminal messages can and do affect the neurons, and consequently, our behavior - under specific conditions. The net conclusion: Subliminal messaging works."Pictures With High Arousal Value" That is how scientists described sex-explicit images used by them in an earlier study on visual subliminal cues, conducted on both the male and female Homo sapiens species (duh, that's us).The research in question was conducted by Professor Sheng He and his colleagues from the Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, along with Patricia Costello of the Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota and Miner Huang of Sun-Yat Sen University, Guangzhou. Forty participants - twenty male and twenty female, with different sexual preferences, homo / hetero - sat before a computer monitor, and their dominant eye was noted. (Yes, just like left-handed/right-handedness, we all tend to rely on one eye over the other - left or the right.) To the dominant eye, two meaningless images of multiple color (noise pictures) were presented. To the non-dominant eye, two images were presented; however, one of these images was an erotic picture (both male and female, selected from the IAPS albums), and the other was the same picture but in scrambled form (control picture). What the researchers were attempting is technically known as backward masking. And, very importantly, the participants were not provided with any prior information on the content of the images that they were going to see.Since the two eyes were presented with different sets of images, what is known as "binocular rivalry" took place between the eyes. Who wins in this rivalry? The dominant eye did. In the above instance, the erotic picture and its scrambled counterpart became invisible, and the participants only saw the noise.After 0.8 seconds of seeing this image, something called a "Gabor Patch" was randomly overlapped on the erotic picture or the control image before the same eye that saw them. This patch is an abstract shape that throws the viewer off balance, and prevents them from linking one set of images with the following set. The viewer was asked to report whether they saw the Gabor Patch hiding the erotic picture, or whether they saw it hiding the control picture. Then the sets of images were swapped - the dominant eye got to see the erotic picture + control picture set, while the non-dominant eye saw noise. Again the Gabor Patch was shown; and this process continued. Each time the images were shown for only 0.8 seconds, not enough for the conscious mind to capture the image, and thus qualified to be called "invisible". The real crux of the experiment was to test the participants' ability to accurately judge whether the Gabor Patch overlapped the erotic picture, or the control picture.Results We like sex! Or rather, we gravitate towards our sexual preferences. This was the conclusion reached at the end of the experiment. When the Gabor patch hid an erotic picture that a participant liked (was sexually oriented towards), the participant pinpointed this fact with high degree of accuracy. Very pertinently, erotica that was not in tune with their sex preference was rejected outright.For the researchers, the main focus of attention was the impact of gender and sexual orientation over the reaction of an individual's emotional system towards the erotica they were subliminally seeing (invisible pictures). To us lay folks - still unsure about the power of subliminality; the main focus is that the human mind can subliminally see things that they naturally gravitate to. Despite being invisible (they saw erotica of their liking for _only_ 0.8 seconds), they could see it!There is yet another interesting observation that the paper makes - totally missed out by popular media. The participants were not as attuned towards an erotic image of their liking when it was presented to the dominant eye, as it was when the image was presented to the non-dominant eye! It was as if the conscious mind tried to hide its true feelings about the sex images that it was seeing. ("What will the good Doctors think if I tell them what I saw?") However, the subconscious exposed its true feelings gaily and with abandon! This could also imply that the neural pathways that handle subliminal messages get privileged processing, over the pathways that handle conscious stimuli! The paper conjectures that the reason behind this could be to ensure survival and facilitate reproductive success of the organism (we are talking s-e-x here).How distracted can the media get? There is another gem of information available in the paper. Participants in the experiment were able to (generally) accurately pinpoint that a Gabor patch hid an invisible image that vibed with their sexual orientation. So will the reverse be true? Would it be possible to know of an individual's sexual orientation by making them go through this test? The test _could_ be used, either in the same format or suitably amended format, to determine a person's _true_ sexual proclivity, as opposed to their stated position. This test could become part of the psychological battery of tests to build an individual's personality profile. Sensitive positions of authority can be filled by persons who pass certain parameters for that position. The paper itself is inconclusive on this point. But this line of thought opens up interesting possibilities; doesn't it?Final Word When the media published the gist of the findings of the paper, the heading of the news had millions of mouse madly scrambling to their pages. On Digg, the same news item was posted twice. One post was dugg 541 times, the other, 436 times (as of writing this piece). The titles of the posts were luring of course. Well, sex _does_ lure, doesn't it?Talking about fascination with sex, ask yourself this question: Did you click on this article because you saw "sex", or because you saw "subliminality"?Or because you saw both?