For some people, it feels like the entire world is conspiring to make sure that the amount of time you get to spend rubbing your genitals on other people (and the quality of said rubbing) never lives up to your expectations. But if you happen to count yourself among the genitally challenged, would it make you feel better to hear that there's only one person standing between you and the sex life of your dreams, and that's the pale and blobby one who's lurking inside your own skull?
Probably not, but it's true -- our own psychology is constantly working against us. Our heads are full of destructive and downright wrong ideas that we just can't get past, due to biology, upbringing, or both.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's ever heard the term "bimbo" before: Due to pretty much every aspect of how our culture thinks about attractiveness, we've all been brainwashed into thinking that people who dress sexy are less intelligent. But maybe more surprising is the fact that this doesn't just apply to women -- men who opt to show more skin are also regarded as being stupider.
"I let my pecs do the talking. Unfortunately, they failed their GED."
OK, so maybe that's not more surprising, but bear with us, because it doesn't stop there: When you see someone cruising around without a shirt, it's not just their IQ that you think is lacking -- you suddenly start to assume that they suck at other stuff, too. In one study, both men and women were shown pictures of "Erin" or "Aaron" in different stages of undress but with the exact same biography. The more skin the person in the photograph was showing, the more the test subjects assumed that Erin/Aaron was not only a blundering dumbass, but morally incompetent as well.
In an interesting variation on the experiment, researchers wired some dude up and gave the test subjects the ability to administer an electric shock (because it's not really science if no one's screaming). You probably think that people would be more likely to shock the guy if he was shirtless -- because, hey, he's probably too dumb to hold a grudge -- but the results were actually the exact opposite: People were more likely to light him up when he was fully clothed than when he was sans shirt. So apparently, although we tend to assume that scantily dressed people are stupid, we also see them as more likeable and/or deserving of our protection.
Either that or they were just pissed at being stuck in the "clothed people" group.
So to summarize, people will think you're stupid if you sexy yourself up in an attempt to increase your chances of getting laid, and you in turn will think people are stupid if they're trying to call sexual attention to themselves.
It's almost like your brain is trying to trick you into having shitty sex with dumb people, especially when you consider the fact that ...
Hopefully, most of you men out there know that it's horribly inappropriate to drool all over the women you work with. But the reasoning isn't only because doing so makes you a first-class dickhole, but also because science says that being ogled severely impairs women's brain smarts.
Don't feel bad, ladies. He has that same effect on men, too.
In a study, women were invited to participate in an interview with a man who, when they entered the room, looked them up and down, and then proceeded to stare at their boobs the entire time. At the completion of the interview, the man would give the woman written feedback to the effect of "Lookin' good in them jeans," and she was then asked to complete a series of math questions. The women who received this treatment were much more likely to have difficulty with completing the questions than women who hadn't been ogled.
Ogled males did not have this problem.
"Quick, touch it again! I've almost solved Goldbach's conjecture."
And no, it's not just nerves. Not only were the women who had been given the once-over suddenly having difficulty solving math problems, but they were also more likely to feel ashamed about how they were dressed, and even to seek out the guy who had sexually harassed them to try to earn his approval. Researchers speculate that this may be because of a compelling urge to prove that she's more than just a sex object, but we like to think that it's because it's logistically impossible to punch a man in the dick unless you're standing near him at the time.
In the real world, you can see how this could lead to a vicious cycle in which a woman is objectified, her job performance suffers as a result, she seeks out the man who objectified her, only to be objectified again ... and on and on ad infinitum until the man is eaten by lions in the great Circle of Life (or something). And this only brings us to more bad news ...
One way you immediately know when a woman is being objectified is if the person or photo focuses on one body part. Douchey guys will refer to a woman as a "piece of ass," and you get porn sites that focus entirely on body parts (we're not linking to them; Google "best tits gallery" if you don't believe us), often not showing the face at all. But it isn't just porn mongers and catcalling construction workers who do this. It's embedded in your very brain.
Thus relieving everyone of responsibility.
To put it simply, the human brain processes women as groups of objects rather than as people. See, when your brain picks up a new image, there are two ways it reacts: One is to use global processing, where the brain lumps details together into a single idea, and the other is to use local processing, where the brain sees a bunch of individual parts. When looking at human beings, for instance, you would see them globally, as one object. When looking at a dinner table with a bunch of food items set out, you'd process them locally -- you dive right into the fries and ignore the parsley.
The problem is that when we said "human being" up there, we meant males.
In a study, participants were shown dozens of photographs of men and women and then asked to identify people from the photographs based on isolated images of body parts. What the researchers discovered was that both men and women more often used their global processing technique for looking at men, meaning that they tended to see the man as an entire person. However, they used their local processing technique for looking at women, meaning that their brains were processing the woman as "an ass, some boobs, some hair, and a sexy pair of lips all held together by [Item Not Found]."
As for why this happens, scientists really aren't sure, but the closest assumption is that men are sizing women up as potential mates, while women are comparing other women's bodies to their own. That's right -- not only are women objectifying each other, but they're objectifying themselves as well. Nice job, society.
It could also be that both sexes simply agree that boobs are awesome.