Study: People See Sexualized Images Of Women As Objects, Not People

adCritiques of popular media as “objectifying” women are dead on — both males and females have been found to  subconsciously process sexy women as being inanimate objects, yet recognize sexy men as human beings. Via Psychological Science:

Perfume ads, beer billboards, movie posters: everywhere you look, women’s sexualized bodies are on display. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that both men and women see images of sexy women’s bodies as objects, while they see sexy-looking men as people.

Psychological research has worked out that our brains see people and objects in different ways. For example, while we’re good at recognizing a whole face, just part of a face is a bit baffling. On the other hand, recognizing part of a chair is just as easy as recognizing 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.

So Bernard and his colleagues used a test where they presented pictures of men and women in sexualized poses. Some of the pictures were right side up and some were upside down. People recognized right-side-up men better than upside-down men, suggesting that they were seeing the sexualized men as people. But the women in underwear weren’t any harder to recognize when they were upside down—which is consistent with the idea that people see sexy women as objects.

26 Comments on "Study: People See Sexualized Images Of Women As Objects, Not People"

  1. and ugly doods are slaves forever stuck in the friend zone

  2. A misleading headline backed up by fallacious research.

    •  can you explain how the research is ‘fallacious’?

      • From what I understand of the article, they’re equating the accuracy of recognition of an inverted  or “upside down” image of a scantily clad person to the category in which the brain places that image.

        Inverted objects are apparently easier for the brain to accurately identify than inverted people.

        According to the study, upside down men were harder to accurately recognize than upside down women.

        Therefore, the researchers came to what I consider to be a fallacious conclusion that people are identifying and conceptually processing the scantily clad women as “objects” rather than people.

        The reason I question this conclusion is that scantily clad women are frequently displayed in an “upside down” or inverted position.

        I’m just guessing, but I’d say that maybe up to a third of the images of attractive and scantily clad women depict them in a reclined position with legs and feet  level with or above the head.

        Fashion shoots, glamor magazines, billboards, ads, men’s magazines, etc.

        Familiarity with these inverted poses would certainly improve the mind’s accuracy in processing them.

        If we were bombarded with men in similar poses, I think we’d find that our processing of those images would improve in accuracy as well.

        Doesn’t matter though, because as Bill Hicks said, “You’re not a person until you’re in my phone book”.

        • mannyfurious | May 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

          Besides all that (which was very good, by the way), how the hell are these people defining “object?” Yes, I see an upside down woman and I get semi-aroused or whatever. That doesn’t happen with an upside down triangle. I don’t want to fuck the bottle of perfume next to the scantily clad upside down woman. Aren’t they being a tad bit broad and vague about what exactly an “object” is? Wouldn’t it be possible to say the men were actually seen as objects, because it took me longer to recognize what I was looking at? After all, I knew a woman was a woman even when she was upside down.

        •  I think another thing to consider is that spheres look the same upside down, if you know what I mean.

        • itslikeduh | May 22, 2012 at 9:02 pm |

          I understand some of what it is you are trying to say but still, you are wrong. The point of drawing objects upside down is to recognize them as shapes and lines. When male figures are displayed like this, it is harder to recognize physical characteristics unique to male anatomy because it is not as harshly shoved in the faces of Americans, as female anatomy is, thus making it easier to draw (basic drawing class skills). It has NOTHING to do with how often women are displayed in advertisements (as laying down…), which in itself portrays weakness and is in even more support of this article. Things like legs, hips, boobs, long hair etc.. are as such. This article offers old news to anyone who is intelligent to see so. So you Zenc, just represent a defensive and informed point of view.

          • Clearly, one of us doesn’t understand the experimental design which was employed in this study.

            I admit it may well be me, though I obviously don’t think so.

            As far as me being “defensive”, perhaps that is so.

            I can certainly say that I’m rather tired of the parade of specious “moral panics” and hysterias which seem to result from poorly conceived, poorly executed, and/or poorly interpreted studies into the subject of human gender and sexuality.

            Shoddy work in this area has the potential to really hurt people because it is seized on (if not actively funded) by people with an agenda who want to influence public policy.

            That point was made clear this past week when Dr. Robert Spitzer publicly apologized for his decade old study which seemed to establish the efficacy of “Reparative Therapy” in “correcting” homosexuality.

            So, I do have a low tolerance for nonsense in this arena.

        • I just find it strange that the results were any different. I think that deserves looking into.

  3. This is the most unscientific thing I have ever read.  

  4. i see pictures of both women and men sexuality or not objects however that as they are pictures of people not people themselves if i see a woman or a man sexy or not i see a person not an object

  5. Established Poster | May 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |

    Out of hand rejection of this topic.  Who ever conducted this “test” is not a true scientist like us right guys? (please everybody think that I am smart, posting on websites is all that I have.)

    • You're Just So Great | May 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |

      Apparently it is ’cause you seemed to have been doing it most of the day. Trying to deride a bunch people you don’t know in a transparent effort to inflate your own ego.

  6. Liam_McGonagle | May 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

    Well, “Yahh!”  ‘Cause it’s creepy to stand there drooling at actual human people.  So of course they’re only objects.

  7. DeepCough | May 21, 2012 at 8:38 pm |

    Honestly, this ain’t nothin’ Madison Ave was already aware of for decades now.

  8. Could it be that curves are easier to recognize than plains? 

  9. Hmmm…all I know is when I look at an inanimate object made of wood pulp and ink…I don’t treat it like a human being…because its not. Its an assemblage of components with a series of images…it doesn’t talk or feel or reproduce. Lending wood pulp or pixels some kind of magical anthropological human qualities…is technically batshit insane.

    I reserve the human treatment for actual humans…and the anti-porn researcher who whines that no one treats inanimate objects with the same respect as living breathing humans…probably needs a neckup checkup with a qualified shrink.

    As for genders treating sexual images of opposite genders differently…was there a surprise there? Show me a sexualized image of a gender I find attractive and I will treat it as a sexualized image of a gender I find attractive. Show me a real live human being of a gender I find attractive in a sexualized situation and the results will be different…especially since I’ll be deploying manners and personal interaction in the hopes of spending quality time that doesn’t involve my own hand…but I will be treating them like a real live human being with rights and interests of their own. Extrapolating peoples relationship capacities from inanimate objects is like trying to divine the location of water with a dowsing rod. Sometimes you might be right about a thing or two…but it’ll only be through dumb luck…not sound science.

  10. Well no shit.

  11. Johnnyutah | May 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    New study finds that water is wet and the sky is blue.

  12. Established Poster | May 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

    Attention all douche-bags.  I have read posts that don’t agree with my world view.  Indeed some of them have been directed at me personally.  Well, let me just project my biases back onto you.  Nice try though.  People who are not like us just don’t get it.

    • unrelated, but i like your posting style, read some of your other posts, and you are a genuinely funny guy. keep up the good work.

  13. Aren’t pictures objects?

  14. If it makes me money, who gives a shit.

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