Objectifying Sarah Palin: Evidence that Objectification Causes Women to be Perceived as Less Competent and Less Fully Human

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Objectification of women, Political psychology, Infrahumanization

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Although a great deal of research has examined the effects of objectification on women’s self-perceptions and behavior, empirical research has yet to address how objectifying a woman affects the way she is perceived by others. We hypothesize that focusing on a woman’s appearance will promote reduced perceptions of competence, and also, by virtue of construing the women as an “object”, perceptions of the woman as less human. We found initial experimental evidence for these hypotheses as a function of objectifying two targets – Sarah Palin and Angelina Jolie. In addition, focusing on Palin’s appearance reduced intentions to vote for the McCain–Palin ticket (prior to the 2008 US Presidential election). We discuss these findings in the context of the election and the objectification of women.

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Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, v. 45, issue 3, p. 598-601