Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Sum of the parts? How our brains see men as people and women as body parts

26.07.2012
Study finds that both genders process images of men, women differently

When casting our eyes upon an object, our brains either perceive it in its entirety or as a collection of its parts. Consider, for instance, photo mosaics consisting of hundreds of tiny pictures that when arranged a certain way form a larger overall image: In fact, it takes two separate mental functions to see the mosaic from both perspectives.

A new study suggests that these two distinct cognitive processes also are in play with our basic physical perceptions of men and women -- and, importantly, provides clues as to why women are often the targets of sexual objectification.

The research, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found in a series of experiments that participants processed images of men and women in very different ways. When presented with images of men, perceivers tended to rely more on "global" cognitive processing, the mental method in which a person is perceived as a whole. Meanwhile, images of women were more often the subject of "local" cognitive processing, or the objectifying perception of something as an assemblage of its various parts.

The study is the first to link such cognitive processes to objectification theory, said Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study's lead author.

"Local processing underlies the way we think about objects: houses, cars and so on. But global processing should prevent us from that when it comes to people," Gervais said. "We don't break people down to their parts – except when it comes to women, which is really striking. Women were perceived in the same ways that objects are viewed."

In the study, participants were randomly presented with dozens of images of fully clothed, average-looking men and women. Each person was shown from head to knee, standing, with eyes focused on the camera.

After a brief pause, participants then saw two new images on their screen: One was unmodified and contained the original image, while the other was a slightly modified version of the original image that comprised a sexual body part. Participants then quickly indicated which of the two images they had previously seen.

The results were consistent: Women's sexual body parts were more easily recognized when presented in isolation than when they were presented in the context of their entire bodies. But men's sexual body parts were recognized better when presented in the context of their entire bodies than they were in isolation.

"We always hear that women are reduced to their sexual body parts; you hear about examples in the media all the time. This research takes it a step further and finds that this perception spills over to everyday women, too," Gervais said. "The subjects in the study's images were everyday, ordinary men and women … the fact that people are looking at ordinary men and women and remembering women's body parts better than their entire bodies was very interesting."

Also notable is that the gender of participants doing the observing had no effect on the outcome. The participant pool was evenly divided between men and women, who processed each gender's bodies similarly: Regardless of their gender, perceivers saw men more "globally" and women more "locally."

"We can't just pin this on the men. Women are perceiving women this way, too," Gervais said. "It could be related to different motives. Men might be doing it because they're interested in potential mates, while women may do it as more of a comparison with themselves. But what we do know is that they're both doing it."

Would there be an antidote to a perceiver's basic cognitive processes that lead women to be reduced and objectified? Researchers said some of the study's results suggested so. When the experiment was adjusted to create a condition where it was easier for participants to employ "global" processing, the sexual body part recognition bias appeared to be alleviated. Women were more easily recognizable in the context of their whole bodies instead of their various sexual body parts.

Because the research presents the first direct evidence of the basic "global" vs. "local" framework, the authors said it could provide a theoretical path forward for more specific objectification work.

"Our findings suggest people fundamentally process women and men differently, but we are also showing that a very simple manipulation counteracts this effect, and perceivers can be prompted to see women globally, just as they do men," Gervais said. "Based on these findings, there are several new avenues to explore."

Sarah Gervais | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unl.edu

Further reports about: body parts cognitive processes genders process mental functions women

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Self-organising system enables motile cells to form complex search pattern
07.05.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht Mouse studies show minimally invasive route can accurately administer drugs to brain
02.05.2019 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New system by TU Graz automatically recognises pedestrians’ intent to cross the road

27.05.2019 | Information Technology

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>