(Scientific American) How Our Brains Turn Women Into Objects
By Piercarlo Valdesolo | October 11, 2011 | 5
There is, it turns out, more than one kind of “objectification”
Recent reports of a mountain lion or cougar stalking the campus of the University of Iowa prompted campus jokesters to tweet their surprise that Michelle Bachman was in town. A cougar, colloquially, is an attractive older woman who seeks out trysts with younger men, and to some, it seems that Bachmann fits the bill. This emphasis on appearance is nothing new for high-profile women who are anything but homely, and feminist scholars are quick to point out its potential detrimental effects on perceptions of female competence.
Of course, we don’t need to consider reactions to political candidates to understand this idea. There is a well-known tension between seeing someone as, and appreciating them for, a body as opposed to a mind. At least, that’s what parents tell their daughters when their school clothes veer too far towards the revealing.
Science has backed parents up on this. A recent study found that showing men pictures of sexualized women evokes less activity in areas of the brain responsible for mental state attribution—that is, the area of the brain that becomes active when we think we are looking at an entity capable of thought and planned action. Other studies have found similar results. When men see body shots of women as compared with face shots, they judge women to be less intelligent, likeable, ambitious and competent.