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[From The Guardian]

Men are more likely to think of women as objects if they have looked at sexy pictures of females beforehand, psychologists said yesterday.

Researchers used brain scans to show that when straight men looked at pictures of women in bikinis, areas of the brain that normally light up in anticipation of using tools, like spanners and screwdrivers, were activated.

Scans of some of the men found that a part of the brain associated with empathy for other peoples’ emotions and wishes shut down after looking at the pictures.

Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, said the changes in brain activity suggest sexy images can shift the way men perceive women, turning them from people to interact with, to objects to act upon.

The finding confirms a long-suspected effect of sexy images on the way women are perceived, and one which persists in workplaces and the wider world today, Fiske said.

“When there are sexualised images in the workplace, it’s hard for people not to think about their female colleagues in those terms. It spills over from the images to the workplace,” she said.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago yesterday, Fiske said the findings called into question the impact of sexualised images of women that might be pinned on workplace walls or sent around offices where there was a strong locker-room culture.

“I’m not saying there should be censorship, but people need to be aware of the associations people will have in their minds,” Fiske said.

To read more about the study, click here.

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