How Sexual Objectification Generates Dehumanization in Western and Eastern Cultures: A Comparison Between Belgium and Thailand

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Abstract

Ever since Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) proposed objectification theory, research on self-objectification and – by extension – other-objectification has experienced a considerable expansion. However, most of the studies on sexual objectification have been conducted solely in Western populations. This study investigates whether the effect of target sexualization on social perception differs as a function of culture (Western vs. Eastern). Specifically, we asked a Western sample (Belgian, N = 62) and a Southeast Asian sample (Thai, N = 98) to rate sexualized versus nonsexualized targets. We found that sexual objectification results in dehumanization in both Western (Belgium) and Eastern (Thailand) cultures. Specifically, participants from both countries attributed less competence and less agency to sexualized than to nonsexualized targets, and they reported that they would administer more intense pain to sexualized than to nonsexualized targets. Thus, building on past research, this study suggests that the effect of target sexualization on dehumanization is a more general rather than a culture-specific phenomenon.

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