When what you see is what you get: The consequences of the objectifying gaze for women and men

Sarah J. Gervais, Theresa K. Vescio, Jill Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


This research examined the effects of the objectifying gaze on math performance, interaction motivation, body surveillance, body shame, and body dissatisfaction. In an experiment, undergraduate participants (67 women and 83 men) received an objectifying gaze during an interaction with a trained confederate of the other sex. As hypothesized, the objectifying gaze caused decrements in women'smath performance but notmen's. Interestingly, the objectifying gaze also increased women's, but notmen's,motivation to engage in subsequent interactions with their partner. Finally, the objectifying gaze did not influence body surveillance, body shame, or body dissatisfaction forwomen or men. One explanation for themath performance and interaction motivation findings is stereotype threat. To the degree that the objectifying gaze arouses stereotype threat, math performance may decrease because it conveys that women's looks are valued over their other qualities. Furthermore, interaction motivation may increase because stereotype threat arouses belonging uncertainty or concerns about social connections. As a result, the objectifying gazemay trigger a vicious cycle in which women underperform but continue to interact with the people who led them to underperform in the first place. Implications for long-term consequences of the objectifying gaze and directions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-17
Number of pages13
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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