All that talk about the objectification of women may, disturbingly enough, be true: a new study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found human beings - of both genders - perceive men as people and women as objects, reports ScienceDaily.
The study found considerable differences in how the two genders are perceived by observers, who were shown pictures of both genders.
When looking at an image of a male, observers relied on "global" processing, and perceived the man as a whole human being. But it was different with women: observers tended to break the female image down into component body parts.
The study was carried out like this, says ScienceDaily: observers were shown images of non-distinctive looking men and women, then were shown two news images: one the original, and the other a modification of the original with a sexual body part included. The observers had to swiftly indicate which image they had seen before.
ScienceDaily reports that the men's sexual body parts were recognized more readily in the context of their whole bodies. Women, on the other hand, were easy to recognize as sexual body parts in isolation.
Of particular interest was that the gender of the observer had little effect on their perceptions: both men and women tended to view men as a whole, and view women as "body parts."
"Local processing underlies the way we think about objects: houses, cars and so on. But global processing should prevent us from that when it comes to people," said Sarah Gervais in ScienceDaily, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"We don't break people down to their parts -- except when it comes to women, which is really striking. Women were perceived in the same ways that objects are viewed."