Treating Objects like Women: The Impact of Terror Management and Objectification on the Perception of Women’s Faces
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There is a modern trend whereby women’s beauty and attractiveness tends towards the artificial, which appears to be an extreme manifestation of objectification culture. Research suggests that sexual objectification has the ability to alter the way we perceive women. Objectification occurs, in part, because women’s bodies pose a unique existential threat, and objectifying women is believed to mitigate concerns about mortality because it transforms women into something inanimate and thus less mortal. We therefore hypothesized that priming death concerns should impact object-person recognition of women. In the present study we recruited 177 undergraduate students from a U.S. Midwestern university to participate in exchange for course credit. We utilized face-morphing techniques to create a series of images representing a continuum of artificial-to-real faces, and after being exposed to a death reminder (as opposed to a pain reminder comparison condition), we asked participants to rate the extent to which the image appeared artificial. Results suggested that death awareness biases people towards reporting artificial female (but not male) faces as real. Existential concerns about death have an impact on perceptual assessments of women, specifically women who have been turned into literal objects. Future research directions, limitations of the current study, and implications for improving women’s health and well-being with this added knowledge about objectification are discussed.
KeywordsObjectification Terror management Perception Health Sexism Social psychology Women and gender studies Implicit attitudes Gender equality
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in the reported studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the American Psychological Association Ethics Code.
The research reported was not funded by a grant.
Conflict of Interest
Authors have no conflicts of interest.
In addition, informed consent was obtained from all participants in the reported study and all participants were fully debriefed after they participated in the study.
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