Brain sees women as parts, men as whole
By Grace Kim
Women are more likely to be picked apart by the brain and seen as parts whereas men are processed as a whole, according to a new study published online in the European Journal of Social Psychology on June 29.
A group of psychologists led by Professor Sarah Gervais at the University of Nebraska carried out a series of experiments with 227 undergraduate participants to find out if there is scientific evidence to back up the perception that women are more objectified than men.
In the first experiment, the researchers focused on global processing, how the brain identifies objects as a whole, and local processing, how the brain pays attention to the individual parts of the object. Each person was shown 48 non-sexualized photographs of either a fully clothed young man or woman. After seeing each image, the participants saw two images side-by-side, the original and the modified version with alterations to the chest or waist. They were asked to pick which image they’d seen before.
With female images, the participants were better at recognizing individual parts than they were at matching whole-body photographs to the originals. On the other hand, the undergraduates were better at recognizing men as a whole than as individual parts.
Gervais and her colleagues preceded the photographs used in the first experiment with images of letters made up of a mosaic of tiny letters for the second experiment. The group of participants who were asked to see the big letter became less likely to objectify women than the group that identified the tiny letters.
Gervais said that the media is “a prime suspect” to the reason men and women bodies are processed differently since the second experiment shows that local processing of women is “an easy habit to overcome.”