Student Papers  |  ,   |  November 1, 2018

A Replication Study: Machine Learning Models Are Capable of Predicting Sexual Orientation From Facial Images

Masters in Information Technology (Big Data Science) Dissertation by John Leuner. University of Pretoria, Department of Computer Science.


Recent research used machine learning methods to predict a persons sexual orientation from their photograph (Wang and Kosinski, 2017). To verify this result, two of these models are replicated, one based on a deep neural network (DNN) and one on facial morphology (FM). Using a new dataset of 20,910 photographs from dating websites, the ability to predict sexual orientation is confirmed (DNN accuracy male 68%, female 77%, FM male 62%, female 72%). To investigate whether facial features such as brightness or predominant colours are predictive of sexual orientation, a new model trained on highly blurred facial images was created. This model was also able to predict sexual orientation (male 63%, female 72%). The tested models are invariant to intentional changes to a subjects makeup, eyewear, facial hair and head pose (angle that the photograph is taken at). It is shown that the head pose is not correlated with sexual orientation. While demonstrating that dating profile images carry rich information about sexual orientation these results leave open the question of how much is determined by facial morphology and how much by differences in grooming, presentation and lifestyle. The advent of new technology that is able to detect sexual orientation in this way may have serious implications for the privacy and safety of gay men and women.