Study: Ogling women makes them worse at math
A new study has found that women who have been ogled by men before taking a math quiz perform worse than those who were not subject to subtle objectification.
(Page 2 of 2)
My eyes are up hereSkip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The results revealed that men’s scores were not affected whether or not they got an objectifying glance from a woman before the math test. But women whose male partners objectified them scored lower than those whose partners didn't gaze at their bodies. The non-objectified women scored an average of 6 out of 12 questions correct, while objectified women scored an average of just under 5.
Studies have shown that when you remind people of a stereotype about their group — "Girls are bad at math" — their performance at that task actually does drop because of their anxiety over the stereotype. This phenomenon, called stereotype threat, likely played a role in the lowered math scores, Gervais said. The women who got the objectifying look were aware of it on some level, as they reported that their partner was more preoccupied with their looks than the women who weren't ogled.
Bad math scores notwithstanding, the ogled women were more likely than the non-ogled women to say they wanted to interact with their partners more. There are a few possible explanations for this seemingly self-defeating desire, Gervais said. Women could be wishing for a chance to show the men they're not a sex object. They might have seen the flirtatious look as a sign he was attracted and returned that attraction. They may have felt flattered at being checked out. Or they may be trying to fit in, Gervais said.
"People that are being stereotyped [become] very, very concerned about their social connections and whether they belong," Gervais said. Further interaction may reduce that anxiety, she said.
The researchers are now investigating whether woman-on-woman or man-on-man gazing has any effect on performance. They're also interested in whether licentious glances could become as taboo as butt-slaps under sexual harassment law.
"When it comes to something subtle like this, it's very difficult to combat," Gervais said. "It's sort of expected that men are going to do this to women and that really it's just not that harmful."
But if research shows that sexualized gazes consistently interfere with work performance, it's time to take rubbernecking more seriously, Gervais said.
"Even though it is just a look,” she added, “it has meaningful consequences for women."
- Q&A: The Destructive Culture of Pretty Pink Princesses
- 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Brain
- 5 Myths About Women's Bodies