From sex objects to human beings

People perceive sexy women as objects, not as human beings

From Psychology of Women Quarterly

People think about images of people and images of objects differently: images of people are perceived as whole images with body parts that fit together to make a whole person whereas objects are seen piecemeal. Because of this difference, it is easier to recognize an object’s parts than a human being’s parts. Drawing on these patterns, the current researchers demonstrate that sexy images of men are viewed holistically like human beings whereas images of sexy women are processed piecemeal like objects. They go on to show that sexy women, like sexy men, are regarded like human beings when their sexualized body parts (breasts and groin, respectively) are masked. Furthermore, when images of sexy women are humanized by saying that the pictured women are medical students poising for a calendar to raise money for cancer research, they are perceived holistically like human beings. In sum, their series of studies document that women portrayed in sexualized ways are objectified and that being objectified takes away one’s humanness Read article.

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that sexualized female bodies are objectified at a cognitive level. Research using the body-inversion recognition task, a robust indicator of configural (vs. analytic processing) within cognitive psychology, shows that for sexualized female bodies, people recognize upright and inverted bodies similarly rather than recognizing upright bodies better than inverted bodies (i.e., an inversion effect). This finding suggests that sexualized female bodies, like objects, are recognized analytically (rather than configurally). Nonetheless, it remains unclear when and why sexualized female bodies are objectified at a basic cognitive level. Grounded in objectification theory, the present experiments examine moderating factors that may prompt more configural processing (i.e., produce an inversion effect) and less objectification of sexualized female bodies. Replicating previous research, sexualized male bodies elicited more configural processing and less objectification compared to sexualized female bodies. We then examined whether reducing the salience of sexual body parts (Experiments 2a and 2b) and adding humanizing information about the targets (Experiment 3) causes perceivers to recognize female bodies more configurally, reducing the cognitive objectification of women. Implications for sexual objectification theory and research, as well as the role of humanizing often-dehumanized sexy women, are discussed. Additional online materials for this article are available to PWQ subscribers on PWQ’s website at http://pwq.sagepub.com/supplemental

 

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Aricle details
Philippe Bernard, Sarah J. Gervais, Jill Allen, Alice Delmée, and Olivier Klein
From Sex Objects to Human Beings: Masking Sexual Body Parts and Humanization as Moderators to Women’s Objectification
Psychology of Women Quarterly 0361684315580125, first published on May 1, 2015 doi:10.1177/0361684315580125

     
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