“Look in my eyes. I said in my eyes!”: Antecedents and Consequences of (Self-) Objectification

In addition, the effects of objectification on dehumanized social perception may be more acute amongst people who hold sexist attitudes. Indeed, Cikara et al. (2011) found a negative association between hostile sexism and attribution of agency to sexualized female targets among male participants: The higher the level of hostile sexism is, the less they attribute agency to sexualized female targets. The level of this type of sexism, but not of benevolent sexism, was negatively correlated with the activation of neural networks involved in the attribution of mind.

Importantly, one of the implications of sexual objectification involves perception of rape victims and perpetrators. In the context of acquaintance rape, Loughnan and colleagues have shown that sexually objectified women are blamed more for being raped and viewed to have suffered less (Loughnan, Pina, & Vasquez, 2012). In addition, the effect of sexual objectification on anti-victim attitudes are explained by moral concern: People blame more a sexually objectified victim and evaluate that she had suffered less than a personalized one because they consider her as less deserving of moral concern.

Sexually objectifying media is one of the main sources of objectification. Another crucial channel of sexual objectification involves social interactions, notably trough the objectifying gaze.

Recognition and Objectifying gaze: When the body is “checked out”

Theoretically speaking, one of the most relevant cues of sexual objectification is the objectifying gaze (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; Swim, Hyers, Cohen, & Ferguson, 2001), which consists in scrutinizing body parts (Kaschak, 1992). The objectifying gaze is present in the media, but also in social interactions when an individual’s body is “checked out”.

Objectifying gaze can be detrimental to female psychological heath. Anticipating a male objectifying gaze leads to greater body shame and social physique anxiety among women (Calogero, 2004). In addition, experiencing such a gaze is aversive (Saguy, Quinn, Dovidio, & Pratto, 2010), impairs cognitive performance (Gay & Castano, 2010; Gervais, Vescio, & Allen, 2011) and it has been shown that experiencing an objectifying gaze is positively related to self-objectification (Kozee, Tylka, Augustus-Horvath, & Denchik, 2007), eating disorders (Moradi et al., 2005) and substance abuse (Carr & Szymanski, 2011).

One can conceptualize the objectifying gaze as involving a visual perception of others as similar to objects rather than actual persons. A major question remains: How can we operationalize such a gaze? In order to answer this question, recent studies have focused on cognitive correlates of the objectifying gaze by drawing on the distinction between configural and analytic processing. Configural processing depends on perceiving relations and configurations among the constitutive parts of a stimulus. This type of recognition is involved in face and body postures’ recognition (for a review, see Maurer, Le Grand, & Mondloch, 2002). For instance, people are more accurate to identify a correct nose between two noses when this element is included in a whole face rather than isolated (e.g., Seitz, 2002; Tanaka & Farah, 1993). By contrast, analytic processing does not take into account spatial relations among the stimuli parts and this type of recognition is involved in object- recognition. For example, there is no difference between the percentages of correctly identified isolated parts vs. whole drawings of house (e.g., Reed, Stone, Grubb, & McGoldrick, 2006).

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