Report on EASP Small Group Meeting: Objectification - Seeing and treating other people as objects
04.11.2015, by Kai Sassenberg in meeting report
June 11th-13th, 2015 in Rovereto, Italy; Organizers: Steve Loughnan and Jeroen Vaes
From the 11th-13th of June, 2015, we held a small group meeting of EASP in the picturesque town of Rovereto, Italy. The meeting focused on the social psychology of objectification, drawing together researchers from around the globe to discuss this growing field. It was attended by forty people of the course of three days, hosting thirty presentations. During this time and with the generous support of EASP, we were able to hold a meeting dinner and organize social activities, including a wonderful hike through the Italian Alps. The programme of the conference can be found here: unitn.it/cogsci-peopleasobjects.
Impetus for the meeting
Objectification represents a powerful and potentially damaging way in which we can see and treat others. When people become tools, instruments, or objects of our appreciation they can lose out on their humanity, inner mental life, and sometimes even moral standing. This objectification can have a sexual element – sexualized women and men become objects of our sexual attention. However, objectification goes beyond the sexual sphere; it can be the worker or the boss, the patient or the practitioner who becomes the object. Objectification – reducing a someone to a something – can occur in any human relationship.
Despite this importance and breadth, the interpersonal aspects of objectification and its connections to morality, dehumanization, motivation, and social cognition have only recently received social psychological attention. This meeting aimed to draw on this attention, hosting a comprehensive and broad summary of the psychology of objectification. We sought to include work on the causes of objectification (e.g., media, parenting, evolution), the nature of objectification in different domains (e.g., sex, gender, work, healthcare), the socio-cognitive processes of objectification (e.g., visual attention, memory, communication), and the consequences of objectification (e.g., aggression, control, sexism).
Composition of the meeting
We selected thirty speakers to present their work. Our selection criteria included an eye for high calibre work, a diversity of topic areas, and a diversity amongst the career stages and national background of the applications. The meeting brought together researchers from nine European nations (Austria, Belgium, England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, and Switzerland) alongside international visitors from Australia, Israel, and the USA. Such a diverse meeting is unparalleled in the study of objectification. The topics of presentation are organized thematically below. As the list reflects, our discussions extended beyond sexual objectification to encompass new applications of objectification in other contexts, and the theoretical challenges which accompany this broadening of perspective.
Measuring self- and other objectification
- Jeroen Vaes: From ogling to dehumanization: Understanding sexual objectification.
- Friederike Eyssel, et al: Determinants and measurement of objectifying behaviour.
- Carlotta Cogoni, et al: When women become objects.
- Elise Holland, et al: The self-objectifying gaze: A new method of capturing what it means to objectify the self.
Seeing others: Target characteristics of objectification
- Maria Giuseppina Pacilli, et al: The negative effects of sexualization on social perception: When age (and gender) matter.
- Joel Anderson, et al: iObjectify: exploring self- and other-objectification processes on Grindr.
- Eva Krumhuber, et al: Mind perception across cultures: Objectification and group membership.
Theories and underlying mechanisms of self- and other-objectification
- Tomi-Ann Roberts: Mind the Thigh Gap?: Some Perils and Pleasures of Bringing Objectification and Self-Objectification to the Masses.
- Jamie L. Goldenberg & Kasey Lynn Morris: Why are Women Objectified and What Does that Mean Anyway? (Hint: Objects, Animals, and Fear of Death).
- Valentina Piccoli, et al: Dehumanization and intrasexual competition across the menstrual cycle.
Objectification, violence and sexual harassment
- Afroditi Pina: The effects of sexual harassment on self-esteem and dimensions of self-objectification.
- Alba Moya-Garófano, et al: The negative effects of objectifying behaviors (”piropos”) on women: The moderating effect of self-objectification.
- Laura Dryjanska: How a documentary can raise awareness about human trafficking: fighting objectification of women in sex industry.
- Sarah Gramazio, et al: Why female bystanders are not willing to help an objectified victim of sexual harassment: the role of perceived immorality.
- Sarah J. Gervais, et al: The ”Real” Dangers of Beer Goggles: Objectification as a Mechanism of Alcohol-Related Sexual Violence.
- Michelle Stratemeyer: Masculinity, objectification and intimate partner violence.
- Eduardo Vasquez, et al: The role of objectification of women in aggression towards them.
Self-Objectification: Antecedents and consequences
- Chiara Rollero, et al: Protective versus risk factors in the context of self-objectification.
- Rachel Calogero: Self-objectification and the pursuit of gender justice: An integrative motivational perspective.
- Nurit Shnabel, et al: The norm prescribing women to strive to achieve beauty functions as a subtle reinforcer of traditional, unequal gender roles.
Media influences on objectification
- Tobias Greitemeyer: Effects of media exposure on attitudes and behavior toward women
- Elisa Sarda, et al: Some consequences of playing sexualized video games.
- Francesca Guizzo, et al: Collective action in response to objectifying portrayls of women on television.
Objectification and economics
- Lasana Harris: Viewing People as Commodities: Dehumanisation and Objectification in Economic Contexts.
- Cristina Baldissarri, et al: (Still) Modern times: Objectification at work.
- Alice Wang & Eva Krumhuber: Money on My Mind: Obsession with Money Leads to Objectification.
- Olivier Klein, et al: When human beings become consumer items: The economic foundations of psychological objectification.
Objectification and power(lessness)
- Gemma Sáez, et al: Why women feel powerful when they are treat as sex object? The effect of benevolent sexism among countries.
- Martina Infanger: Sexual Objectification: A Pathway to Female Empowerment?
- Steve Loughnan & Laura Elder: The eye of the receiver: Objectification makes women feel less warm, competent, and human.
Objectification as a field is developing rapidly. With some exceptions, this meeting was able to gather researchers at the forefront of those developments. Some of these academics have spent the majority of their careers studying objectification, whereas others are relatively new to the field. During the meeting at the dinners and on hikes in the mountainside, and immediately afterwards on the trains back to airports and hotels (and shut down parts of Verona!) delegates were able to develop collaborative research plans and organize for joint submissions to grant bodies.
Further, on the basis of this meeting, we have been approved for a special issue of the British Journal of Social Psychology (BJSP) that focuses on objectification. The special issue will be edited by the organisers of this small group meeting, and we hope that many of the delegates will have a chance to submit some of the wonderful work they showcased in Rovereto.