22 February 2009

Vocabulary in the News: Bikinis Make Men See Women as Objects, Scans Confirm



Bikinis Make Men See Women as Objects, Scans Confirm

Christine Dell'Amore in Chicago National Geographic News

February 16, 2009

Sexy women in bikinis really do inspire some men to see them as objects, according to a new study of male behavior.

Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lights up.

Men were also more likely to associate images of sexualized women with first-person action verbs such as "I push, I grasp, I handle," said lead researcher Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University.

And in a "shocking" finding, Fiske noted, some of the men studied showed no activity in the part of the brain that usually responds when a person ponders another's intentions.

This means that these men see women "as sexually inviting, but they are not thinking about their minds," Fiske said. "The lack of activation in this social cognition area is really odd, because it hardly ever happens."

Fiske and colleagues asked 21 heterosexual male volunteers to first take a test that scores people based on different types of sexist attitudes. The subjects were then shown pictures of both skimpily dressed and fully clothed men and women.

Most of the men best remembered headless photographs of women in bikinis, even if they'd only seen the image for two-tenths of a second, Fiske reported this weekend in Chicago during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

And the men who scored higher as "hostile sexists"—those who view women as controlling and invaders of male space—didn't show brain activity that indicates they saw the women in bikinis as humans with thoughts and intentions.

Scientists have seen this absence of activation only once before, in a study where people were shown off-putting photographs of homeless people and drug addicts. If a similar study were done with women, Fiske said, it would be hard to predict whether a woman shown a scantily clad male body would dehumanize him in the same way.

Stereotypically, women tend to look for mates who have wealth and power, so some of Fiske's colleagues have suggested running a similar test where women are shown pictures of men next to expensive cars or other affluent symbols.

But Fiske doesn't think such an experiment would work the same way, because women usually react to men they desire by "interpreting their minds, thinking about what they're interested in, and then trying to please them," she said.

to reveal

to make known EX. The CIA will reveal the results of their investigation.

scantily clad

wearing very little clothing, half-clothed EX. The indigenous peoples in the jungles of the Amazon forest were often scantily clad.

to light up

to make brighter, to become clear (irregular verb = lit, lit) EX. The low-gasoline warning indicator lit up on the dashboard of my car because I was almost out of gas.

sexualized (US), sexualised (UK)

adj. made sexual in character or quality; endowed with sexual significance or feeling (verb = to sexualize/sexualise) EX. There’s no question that sex sells. Sexualized/Sexualised pictures are often used in advertizing/advertising.


adj. first, most important, head EX. He is the lead author of this research paper.

a finding

a conclusion reached after examination or investigation EX. The research findings informed our campaign ‘Standing up for women's safety.’

to ponder

to weigh mentally; think deeply about; consider carefully EX. Have you ever stopped to ponder the mysteries of the paranormal?

sexually inviting

that which is sexually tempting EX. The “pin-up girls” of the 1940’s were often scantily-dressed and sexually inviting.

the mind

principle of intelligence; faculty of thinking; a person that embodies certain mental qualities EX. Sometimes you should follow your heart, not your mind.

a lack

a deficiency or an absence of EX. A lack of funding brought the project to a halt.

social cognition

thought process involved in understanding and dealing with other people EX.The social cognition learning model asserts that culture is the prime determinant of individual development.


adj. strange, bizarre, unusual EX. Do you think this milk is still good? It has an odd smell.

to score

to evaluate and assign a grade to; to achieve or to win EX. The wine reviewers scored the wine according to taste, body, color, clarity, aroma, etc..

skimpily dressed

scantily clad EX. In the French Quarter the celebration is a lot rowdier. The crowd is heavy, frequently skimpily dressed and constantly exposing more flesh than most parents would like their children to see.

fully clothed

completely dressed, to have all one’s clothes on EX. He was so drunk after when he got home, he jumped into the shower fully clothed!


adj. rather unpleasant or disturbing EX. It can be very off-putting when you first visit an unemployment office.

to predict

to state, tell about, or make known in advance, especially on the basis of special knowledge EX. The weather man is predicting a 60% chance of snow for tomorrow.

to tend to + verb

to be disposed or inclined; to have a tendancy EX. You can never believe what he says because he tends to exaggerate.

a mate

a spouse (husband or wife), a companion EX. What qualities are you looking for in a mate?

to run a test

to conduct an experiment or test EX. I think we should run further tests to verify our results.


adj. generously supplied with money, property, or possessions; prosperous or rich EX. Thanks to the success of his business, he is becoming more and more affluent.


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