Academic Staff

Dr Gerulf Rieger

Position in departmentTutor for MSc Conversion Students; Seminar Organiser
Staff positionLecturer
Telephone01206 873712
Office hoursTuesdays from 11 am until 1 pm

Gerulf Rieger obtained a MSc in Biological Anthropology from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and a PhD in Personality Psychology from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Gerulf had a teaching position at Northwestern University and was a research fellow in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University before joining the Social and Health Psychology Group at the University of Essex.


2015 FHEA, The Higher Education Academy

2006 PhD, Personality Psychology, Northwestern University

2004 MSc, Personality Psychology, Northwestern University

1999 MSc, Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Zurich

1995 BS, Biology, University of Vienna, Austria

Current research

My student Tuesday Watts and I are in the midst of an exciting study on the development of sexual orientation. We are recruiting identical twins with discordant sexual orientations; that is, heterosexual twins with homosexual co-twins. Since these twin pairs are virtually genetically identical, any differences must be due to the environment – so, is it all due to their upbringing after all?

My student Jamie Raines and I are examining to what degree female-to-male transsexuals and male-to-female transsexuals are similar to, or different from, heterosexual and homosexual men and women. This work includes the very first study that will assess the genital arousal patterns of female-to-male transsexuals. We are currently investigating the right tools to do this. Stay tuned!

My student Luke Holmes and I are studying why the large majority of heterosexual women show bisexual genital arousal patterns, whereas lesbians show, on average, stronger genital responses to their preferred sex (women). Why are their arousal patterns so different, and not necessarily in line with their sexual orientations? We examine how both personality and prenatal hormonal influences contribute to theses patterns.

Research interests

My work focuses on sexual orientation: how it is organized, how it develops, and how it affects a person’s life. I use a diversity of methodologies, including self-report, behavioural observations, physiological activity and neurological correlates, and employ an array of quantitative skills in order to pursue my research. I use videos and photos from childhood to examine whether masculine and feminine behaviours during early development predict adult sexual orientation. I also investigate the social impact of these signals. I have used large data sets of family members to investigate potential evolutionary reasons for sexual orientation. In another line of research, I study the association of sexual orientation with physiological sexual arousal in order to illuminate sex differences in sexual response. With a different methodology, pupil dilation, I am currently conducting research that will aid in explaining how early sex and sexual orientation differences in sexual attraction emerge. These studies have broad relevance for understanding how people perceive themselves and others, for the consequences of these perceptions, and for the development of differences between and within the sexes.

Teaching responsibilities

Gerulf Rieger's current teaching responsibilities include Human Sexuality (PS498), Research Methods in Psychology (PS114), Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience (PS929), Special Topics in Individual Differences and Developmental Psychology (PS938), and the supervision of Third Year Projects (PS300). 


Below is a list of selected puplications. For a complete list, please find me on ResearchGate:

Watts, T. M., Holmes, L., Savin-Williams, R. C., & Rieger, G. (2016). Pupil dilation to explicit and non-explicit sexual stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0801-8

Rieger, G., Savin-Williams, R. C., Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2016). Sexual arousal and masculinity-femininity of women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111, 265-283. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000077

Rigato, S., Rieger, G., & Romei, V. (2016). Multisensory signalling enhances pupil dilation. Scientific Reports, 6, 26188. doi: 10.1038/srep26188

Rieger, G., Cash, B. M., Merrill, S. M., Jones-Rounds, J., Dharmavaram, S. M., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2015). Sexual arousal: The correspondence of eyes and genitals. Biological Psychology, 104, 56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.11.009

Rieger, G., Rosenthal, A. M., Cash, B. M., Linsenmeier, J. A., Bailey, J. M., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2013). Male Bisexual Arousal: A Matter of Curiosity? Biological Psychology, 94(3), 479-89. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.09.007

Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012). The eyes have it: Sex and sexual orientation differences in pupil dilation patterns. PloS One, 7(8): e40256. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040256.

Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012). Gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, and psychological well-being. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(3), 611-621.

Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., Gygax, L., Garcia, S. C., & Bailey, J. M. (2010). Dissecting ‘Gaydar’: Accuracy and the role of masculinity-femininity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(1), 124-140.

Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: Evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 46-58.

Rieger, G., Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2005). Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men. Psychological Science, 16(8), 579-584.

Chivers, M. L., Rieger, G., Latty, E. M., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). A sex difference in the specificity of sexual arousal. Psychological Science, 15(11), 736-744.


 For a complete list, please find me on ResearchGate:

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