The theory that men first assess women based on their figure has been repeatedly confirmed. However, it turns out that women look at each other the same way. A group of psychologists from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, USA) led by Sarah Gervais concluded that women assess the appearance of other women from the point of view of men.
Scientists have long been interested in the so-called phenomenon of “objectifying gaze.” They assume that both men and women when first looking at each other perform some sort of mental “analysis” that captures the degree of sexual attractiveness of a new acquaintance and determines whether the person is suitable for them as a potential partner.
36 men and 29 women were involved in the study. They were divided into two groups, each group had members of both sexes. They were showed pictures of ten different women. The pictures were manipulated to obtain three images of varying degrees of attractiveness.
The first team was asked to evaluate the appearance of these women, while the second group was asked to assess their personal qualities (or share their assumptions about them). The researchers used special eyetracking technology Eyelink II to map the trajectory of the subjects’ gaze. The device is a helmet with two sensors detecting the movement of the pupils.
It was found that men dwelled more on the most sexualized parts of a woman’s body than on their face. This, however, was not surprising. Surprise awaited the researchers when the same experiment was conducted with women who were shown pictures of other women.
It turned out that the female subjects also focused primarily on the particular shape of other women. One key difference between male and female perceptions is that men dwelled more on “curvy” figures, while women spent equal amount of time looking at all shapes.
Only the degree of visual appeal was assessed. Women with hourglass figures were perceived more positively than women with straighter figures by male participants, the researchers found. As for personal traits, men gave higher assessment to “curvy” women, while women participants did not always give high assessment to women with a good figure.
Psychologists believe that women tend to subconsciously compare themselves to other women, and the assessment of appearance allows them to see or not to see each other as potential rivals and competitors. Recently another psychologist conducted a study that showed that women more often than men use indirect methods of aggression in order to stifle competition. This is mostly apparent at a young age.
For example, men tend to compete in order to gain women’s attention. In order to get the woman they want, they can use direct aggression, for example, physical violence against other men. In addition, many of them mistakenly believe that women like aggressive macho (according to numerous studies, this is not the case).
Women use other tools for competition, for example, sarcasm and gossip. They often try to “destroy” their opponents by verbally humiliating them. For example, in a survey conducted by researchers most women said that if another woman were to offend them, they would try to boycott her in the circle of mutual friends.
It was also found that women are less favorable towards well-dressed women than to those who are not elegantly dressed. A survey of Canadian teenage girls showed that attractive girls are 35 percent more likely to turn into an object of aggression by their peers than the less attractive ones. Unattractive women are not perceived as competitors, while attractive women are perceived as a potential threat in the race for men. If a man sees a beautiful woman as a potential partner, women see her as a competitor, experts say. This is why both men and women equally carefully look at women’s appearance.
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