My Eyes Are Up Here: The Nature of the Objectifying Gaze Toward Women
- 5.2k Downloads
Although objectification theory suggests that women frequently experience the objectifying gaze with many adverse consequences, there is scant research examining the nature and causes of the objectifying gaze for perceivers. The main purpose of this work was to examine the objectifying gaze toward women via eye tracking technology. A secondary purpose was to examine the impact of body shape on this objectifying gaze. To elicit the gaze, we asked participants (29 women, 36 men from a large Midwestern University in the U.S.), to focus on the appearance (vs. personality) of women and presented women with body shapes that fit cultural ideals of feminine attractiveness to varying degrees, including high ideal (i.e., hourglass-shaped women with large breasts and small waist-to-hip ratios), average ideal (with average breasts and average waist-to-hip ratios), and low ideal (i.e., with small breasts and large waist-to-hip ratios). Consistent with our main hypothesis, we found that participants focused on women’s chests and waists more and faces less when they were appearance-focused (vs. personality-focused). Moreover, we found that this effect was particularly pronounced for women with high (vs. average and low) ideal body shapes in line with hypotheses. Finally, compared to female participants, male participants showed an increased tendency to initially exhibit the objectifying gaze and they regarded women with high (vs. average and low) ideal body shapes more positively, regardless of whether they were appearance-focused or personality-focused. Implications for objectification and person perception theories are discussed.
KeywordsSexual objectification Male gaze Objectifying gaze Dehumanization Person perception Impression formation Attractiveness Eye tracking
This research was supported in part by a Layman Award to Sarah J. Gervais from the Office of Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This research was also supported in part by the McNair Scholars Program Summer Research Internship (U.S. Department of Education), the Research Experience for Undergraduates Award (National Science Foundation), and the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experiences Program (Pepsi Endowment) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to Arianne M. Holland. We would like to thank Angie Dunn for assistance with data collection, Devon Kathol and Justin Escamilla for assistance with stimulus creation, and Mark Mills for assistance with data analysis.
- Bartky, S. L. (1990). Femininity and domination: Studies in the phenomenology of oppression. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Bodenhausen, G. V., & Macrae, C. (1998). Stereotype activation and inhibition. In R. R. Wyer & R. R. Wyer (Eds.), Stereotype activation and inhibition (pp. 1–52). Mahwah, NJ US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
- Brewer, M. B. (1988). A dual process model of impression formation. In T. K. Srull & R. R. Wyer (Eds.), A dual process model of impression formation (pp. 1–36). Hillsdale, NJ England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
- Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 23, pp. 1–74). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Gervais, S. J., Bernard, P., Klein, O., & Allen, J. (2013a). Toward a unified theory of objectification and dehumanization. In S. J. Gervais (Ed.), Objectification and (De)Humanization (pp. 1–24). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
- Gervais, S. J., DiLillo, D., & McChargue, D. (2013b). Understanding the link between men’s alcohol use and sexual violence: The mediating role of sexual objectification. Psychology of Violence. doi: 10.1037/a0033840.
- Heilman, M. E., & Stopeck, M. H. (1985). Being attractive, advantage or disadvantage? Performance-based evaluations and recommended personnel actions as a function of appearance, sex, and job type. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 202–215. doi: 10.1016/0749-5978(85)90035-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Henley, N. (1977). Body politics: Power, sex, and nonverbal communication. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Holland, E., & Haslam, N. (2013). Worth the weight: The objectification of overweight versus thin targets. Psychology of Women Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0361684312474800.
- Kaschak, E. (1992). Engendered lives: A new psychology of women’s experience. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Kilbourne, J., & Pipher, M. (1999). Deadly persuasion: Why women and girls must fight the addictive power of advertising. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Loughnan, S., Fernandez, S., Vaes, J., Anjum, G., Aziz, M., Harada, C., … Tsuchiya, K. (2013). Sexual objectification is common in Western, but not non-Western nations: A seven nation study of sexual objectification. Manuscript submitted for publication. Google Scholar
- Vaes, J., & Latrofa, M. (under review). From ogling to dehumanization: The objectifying gaze.Google Scholar
- Young, I. M. (2003). Breasted experience: The look and the feeling. In R. Weitz (Ed.), The politics of women’s bodies (pp. 152–163). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar