UNL researchers examine the “objectifying gaze”

Story and photos by Heather Haskins, NewsNetNebraska

For decades, women complained of men staring at their chests. As it turns out, they were right.

A new study by UNL researchers used eye-tracking devices to study the “objectifying gaze” of men and women when they looked at women’s bodies. The results were surprising.

Not only did men look at women’s chests for a significant amount of time, but women did too.

“Women seem to check out other women the same way men check out women,” said Michael Dodd, UNL psychologist and researcher.

The Study 

In study, the researchers took photographs of women and  photoshopped them into three types of figures. One figure was an hourglass, the other was straight, the third was somewhere in the middle.

The facial expressions on all the photos were neutral.

Participants looked at the figures with the eye tracking device on and then were asked to make conclusions about the appearance and personality of the women.

Men’s eyes moved quickly between the face and the breasts. Women’s eye patterns focused on the breasts in a similar way, although women spent slightly more time looking at the face than men did.

Men rated curvier women more positively, while women rated all figures of women about the same.

The researchers explained that part of this may be evolutionary; men view women with lower waist to hip ratios as having more reproductive fitness than their straighter-figured counterparts.

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Why do women check out other women?

Researcher Sarah Gervais believes that women look at other women for a number of reasons.

“It could be competition, it could be they are insecure about their own appearance,” Gervais said. ” You check out people more attractive than you.”

Men use appearance to gage personality 

Men used appearance as a gage of personality more than women did, rating women with an hourglass figure as having a better personality than women with other body types.

“Somehow men are reading more into appearance (than women are),” Gervais said.

What now? 

The researchers hope that learning more about the objectifying gaze will help reduce it.

“We know the objectifying gaze is negative,” Dodd said.  “There is tons of research that shows that when women are objectified they view themselves in a negative way.”

Gervais said that there are two types of objectifying gazes; one that is a simple “once over,” and another that was more of a stare.

She said that if, for example, a woman were to walk into a bar, men would be more likely to stare her breasts where as a woman would be more likely to give her a glance up and down to see what she is wearing and to size her up.

aEyetracking-636x360Gervais said that there still needs to be more research into this topic to prove these observations scientifically.

Gervais and Dodd have also begun a similar study that looks at how people objectify men.

They also would like to see if people are more likely to objectify people when they are tired or fatigued both mentally and physically.

 

 

 

 

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