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September 19, 2007

Swagger and Sway: The Study’s Author Comments

Posted at 11:46 am (Pacific Time)

In a recent posting, I discussed a newly published study titled “Swagger, Sway, and Sexuality: Judging Sexual Orientation from Body Motion and Morphology.” In addition to summarizing the study findings, I pointed out that some media reports seem to have missed the point of the research.

Prof. Kerri Johnson, the study’s lead author, e-mailed me today about that posting. In her e-mail, she noted that her principal research focus is how people perceive others, and she explained the study’s relationship to her ongoing research program. With her permission, I’m posting the text of her e-mail here.

“On your blog you recently reviewed some of my research that appeared in this month’s JPSP. I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful comments — and for helping to set the record straight.

As is always the case, this research is part of a broader program of research. The broader research program aims to understand how individuals use sexually dimorphic cues in their social judgments, and here we focused on the implications for perceived sexual orientation. I feel quite strongly that understanding how people make these judgments (whether they are correct or incorrect) can also help to understand stigma and bias. In other research (currently being written up), for example, we demonstrate that inferences made about the cues that convey masculinity/femininity, not the homosexual category membership itself, predict harsh evaluations. Because I see a clear link between understanding person construal and preventing bias, some of the claims in popular blogs have been unsettling.

In any event, you’re one of the few individuals who has correctly pointed out that my emphasis is on social perception, not the production of gendered body motion.”

Kerri L. Johnson
UCLA Department of Communication Studies

Copyright © 2007 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.