People see bold pictures of women as objects: Study

Published: May 17, 2012

Seeing images of sexualised women everyday makes people see them as if they were objects, not people, says study. PHOTO: FILE

BRUSSELS: Perfume ads, beer billboards, movie posters: everywhere you look, women’s sexualised bodies are on display, which men and women see as objects, says a new study.

Sexual objectification has been well-studied, but most of the research is about looking at the effects of this objectification.

“What’s unclear is we don’t actually know whether people at a basic level recognise sexualised females or sexualised males as objects,” says study co-author Philippe Bernard of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.

Psychological research has worked out that our brains see people and objects in different ways. For example, while we are 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, the journal Psychological Science reports.

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 are turned upside down, but pictures of objects do not have that problem, according to Bruxelles statement.

So Bernard and his colleagues used a test where they presented pictures of men and women in sexualized poses, wearing underwear. Each participant watched the pictures appear one by one on a computer screen.

Some of the pictures were right side up and some were upside down. After each picture, there was a second of black screen, then the participant was shown two images.

They were supposed to choose the one that matched the one they had just seen.

People recognised right-side-up men better than upside-down men, suggesting that they were seeing the sexualised men as people.

But the women in underwear were not any harder to recognise when they were upside down, which is consistent with the idea that people see sexy women as objects. There was no difference between male and female participants.

We see sexualised women every day on billboards, buildings, and the sides of buses and this study suggests that we think of these images as if they were objects, not people.

“What is motivating this study is to understand to what extent people are perceiving these as human or not,” Bernard says. The next step, he says, is to study how seeing all these images influences how people treat real women.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • OOpsie!
    May 17, 2012 - 10:13AM

    Duh!

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  • RizwanTKhan
    May 17, 2012 - 10:20AM

    Ofcourse in today’s world everyone sees women as an object (thanks to the west). Infact, object is a pretty decent word. In reality, I hate to say this but such women are taken as a piece of chicken or a juice. Satisfy your hunger and throw the left over (a very harsh reality).

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  • xyz
    May 17, 2012 - 11:24AM

    What is new in this study … its very obvious … woman has made herself an object in the name of fashion and modernization .. what a pity

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  • Desi
    May 17, 2012 - 3:18PM

    So whats wrong if some of us say “kapray baicho ghairat nahien” !!! at the end of the day the Belgian study also finds that sexualised public display of women results in them being viewed as “objects.
    So I guess, the message from Belgium is that in order for women not to be looked at as an object, they should also cover up ? : )

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  • Atheist, India
    May 17, 2012 - 8:00PM

    While on the other end of this extreme spectrum, covering women with burqa paints an image of absolute independence and self respect.

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  • azhar88
    May 18, 2012 - 5:11AM

    all the liberal trolls are on a day off lol

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  • Diddly poo
    May 20, 2012 - 1:20PM

    It’s human nature. I can attest to the fact that when I see a pic of, let’s say David Beckham half naked, my mind registers his body first, not his face and without a face, he becomes an object for me. Same with a random barely clothed male model on a billboard, I register his body…probably couldn’t pick his face out of a line up after that.

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