Whether it’s a movie poster or a beer billboard, women in sexy images are seen as “objects,” not people, according to a new study.The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, drew on the insight that our brains view people and objects differently:
For example,while we’re good at recognising a whole face, just part of a face is a bit baffling. On the other hand, recognising part of a chair is just as easy as recognising a whole chair.
One way that psychologists have found to test whether something is seen as an object is by turning it upside down. Pictures of people present a recognition problem when they’re turned upside down, but pictures of objects don’t have that problem.
Researchers in Belgium developed a test in which they presented pictures of scantily-clad men and women one-by-one on a computer screen with some of the pictures right-side-up and some upside-down.
Both men and women recognised right-side-up men better than upside-down men, suggesting that they were seeing the men as people instead of objects (and thereby having recognition trouble).
Participants didn’t have trouble recognising women when they were upside-down, suggesting that people see sexy women as objects.
Lead researcher Philippe Bernard said in a press release that the next step is to study how seeing sexualized women in advertising influences how people treat women.
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