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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

EASP Seedcorn Grant Report

28.12.2023, by Media Account in grant report

Carmen Cervone, Caterina Suitner, Silvia Galdi, Francesca Guizzo, Daniela Ruzzante

Theoretical background

Gender inequality is a global issue that damages women all over the world. Among its sources is sexual objectification, namely the reduction of a person and their worth to their body or sexual body parts (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Sexually objectified women, but not men, are perceived as more similar to real objects (Vaes et al., 2019), and as lacking some basic aspects of personhood (e.g., Heflick & Goldenberg, 2014; Puvia & Vaes, 2013; Heflick et al., 2011). Additionally, dehumanized and sexually objectified women are more likely to become a victim of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and social exclusion (e.g., Cogoni et al., 2018; Cogoni et al., 2023; Bevens & Loughnan, 2019). Importantly, sexual objectification can also affect how women see themselves through self-objectification (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Cultural contexts that sexually objectify women may lead them to interiorize this depiction of themselves, which is related to lower well-being (e.g., Mercurio & Landry, 2008, Miner-Rubino et al., 2002) and mental health issues such as depression and eating disorders (e.g., Kahalon et al., 2018; Karsay et al., 2018).

One unexplored potential outcome of sexual objectification and self-objectification is body concealment. Body concealment is a form of social avoidance that has primarily been studied in relation to body-image and eating disorders (Walker et al., 2018) or visible disfiguring conditions (e.g., Jewett et al., 2016). To our knowledge, body concealment has never been tested as an outcome of self-objectification. Indirect evidence is supporting our reasoning: women receiving sexually objectifying comments may try to disappear by talking less (Saguy et al., 2010); and self-objectification is linked to avoidance of body-related thoughts (e.g., Choma et al., 2009). Therefore, our general objective was (a) to address the question of whether body concealment is indeed an outcome of self-objectification, and (b) to validate a scale to measure body concealment.

Original goals and realization

The original goals for our project involved running three studies. Of them, two were correlational studies aimed at validating a scale of body concealment and one was an experimental study aimed at testing whether body concealment can be elicited by sexual harassment. Since we managed to run two of these studies (i.e., one validation study and the experimental study) through students, we employed the grant to conduct the remaining study and two additional correlational studies aimed at placing body concealment in the theoretical framework of self-objectification theory (see below).

The current project

Through the EASP Seedcorn grant, we were able to run three studies by collecting data on Prolific Academic. All studies were pre-registered on, and data and materials are available on OSF. In the first (N = 293), we validated a new instrument to assess body concealment. The scale, validated in English, consists of 10 items and includes two subscales, one assessing body concealment, and the other assessing its opposite, body exposure.

In the second study (N = 700) we investigated the processes that may link self-objectification to body concealment. We based our model on the theoretical framework defined by Calogero et al. (2021), namely focusing on body shame, appearance anxiety, dispositional flow, interoceptive awareness, and safety anxiety as potential mediators. Results showed that the cognitive dimension of self-objectification, namely the observer perspective, was linked to increased body concealment and decreased body exposure solely through increased body shame. The identity component of self-objectification (i.e., body as self), instead, directly predicted body exposure. We argue, therefore, that body concealment is uniquely a social phenomenon, entirely determined by the shame deriving from the potential gaze of others. Body exposure, instead, can be elicited on the one hand from a social process linked to reduced shame, and an individual, identity-based process, that is directly linked to the value one places on one’s body over one’s thoughts and personhood.

After having defined the process driving this phenomenon, in a third study (N = 546) we investigated the link between body concealment and wellbeing. Again, we referred to the theoretical model developed by Calogero et al. (2021) and considered eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, depression, and restricted freedom of movement as common outcomes of self-objectification that may be linked to body concealment. Results showed that concealing was positively related to these negative outcomes of self-objectification on wellbeing, highlighting the need to investigate this construct in order to protect women.
At the time of writing the present report, results have been disseminated to the general public through university lectures.

Contribution to wider research activities of the research team

The studies conducted through the EASP seedcorn grant contributed to the development of a larger, two-year research project, for which many studies are planned or ongoing at the time of writing. These have primarily to do with determining the boundary conditions of the phenomenon of body concealment, as well as its effects on women’s wellbeing. Furthermore, the EASP seedcorn grant allowed the formation of a new research team, partly involving researchers who were not collaborating prior to this project. Overall, the EASP seedcorn grant allowed us to take the first step into the investigation of this new phenomenon, which may impact women’s wellbeing and as such warrants to be addressed.


Bevens, C.L., Loughnan, S. Insights into Men’s Sexual Aggression Toward Women: Dehumanization and Objectification. Sex Roles 81, 713–730 (2019).

Calogero, R. M., Tylka, T. L., Siegel, J. A., Pina, A., & Roberts, T.-A. (2021). Smile pretty and watch your back: Personal safety anxiety and vigilance in objectification theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 121(6), 1195–1222.

Choma, B. L., Shove, C., Busseri, M. A., Sadava, S. W., & Hosker, A. (2009). Assessing the role of body image coping strategies as mediators or moderators of the links between self-objectification, body shame, and well-being. Sex Roles, 61, 699-713.

Cogoni, C., Carnaghi, A., & Silani, G. (2018). Reduced empathic responses for sexually objectified women: An fMRI investigation. Cortex, 99, 258–272.

Cogoni, C., Monachesi, B., Mazza, V., Grecucci, A., & Vaes, J. (2023). Neural dynamics of vicarious physical pain processing reflect impaired empathy toward sexually objectified versus non‐sexually objectified women. Psychophysiology, e14400.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of women quarterly, 21(2), 173-206.

Heflick, N. A., & Goldenberg, J. L. (2014). Seeing eye to body: The literal objectification of women. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(3), 225-229.

Heflick, N. A., Goldenberg, J. L., Cooper, D. P., & Puvia, E. (2011). From women to objects: Appearance focus, target gender, and perceptions of warmth, morality and competence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(3), 572-581.

Jewett, L. R., Malcarne, V. L., Kwakkenbos, L., Harcourt, D., Rumsey, N., Körner, A., ... & Fortin, P. (2016). Development and validation of the Body Concealment Scale for Scleroderma. Arthritis care & research, 68(8), 1158-1165.

Kahalon, R., Shnabel, N., & Becker, J. C. (2018). Experimental studies on state self-objectification: A review and an integrative process model. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1268.

Karsay, K., Knoll, J., & Matthes, J. (2018). Sexualizing media use and self-objectification: A meta-analysis. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 42(1), 9–28.

Mercurio, A. E., & Landry, L. J. (2008). Self-objectification and well-being: The impact of self-objectification on women’s overall sense of self-worth and life satisfaction. Sex roles, 58, 458-466.

Miner-Rubino, K., Twenge, J. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2002). Trait self-objectification in women: Affective and personality correlates. Journal of Research in Personality, 36(2), 147-172.

Puvia, E., & Vaes, J. (2013). Being a Body: Women’s Appearance Related Self-Views and their Dehumanization of Sexually Objectified Female Targets. Sex Roles, 68(7–8), 484–495.

Saguy, T., Quinn, D. M., Dovidio, J. F., & Pratto, F. (2010). Interacting like a body: Objectification can lead women to narrow their presence in social interactions. Psychological Science, 21(2), 178-182.

Vaes, J., Cristoforetti, G., Ruzzante, D., Cogoni, C., & Mazza, V. (2019). Assessing neural responses towards objectified human targets and objects to identify processes of sexual objectification that go beyond the metaphor. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1-10.

Walker, D. C., White, E. K., & Srinivasan, V. J. (2018). A meta‐analysis of the relationships between body checking, body image avoidance, body image dissatisfaction, mood, and disordered eating. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 51(8), 745-770.