In an article for Wired, author Jonah Lehrer concedes that “We judge books by the cover and minds by their appearance. We are a superficial species.”
The article focuses on two elements that we use to evaluate strangers:
1. agency, which is the ability to plan, act and exert self-control, and
2. experience, the ability to feel and perceive.
A team of psychologists studied the reactions of undergraduates to photographs of only the faces of a man and woman and then studied them again when they were shown full torsos of the same man and woman. When the pictures only showed a face, viewers imagined that they had lots of agency. But when they saw the person’s torso, they suddenly imagined them as obsessed with experience. Same person, same facial expression, but a hint of seeing the person’s body changed the viewer’s perception.
The psychologists pondered these questions: “Do people’s mental capacities fundamentally change when they remove a sweater? This seems absurd: How could removing a piece of clothing change one’s capacity for acting or feeling? In six studies, however, we show that taking off a sweater–or otherwise revealing flesh–can significantly change the way a mind is perceived.”
All it takes is a peek of skin before a thinker morphs into a feeler.
Read the full article here. Women, do you feel objectified by men because of your body? Men, do you find that seeing a woman’s body causes you to take her less seriously?