The scene is a common one. It's a weekend or a weeknight after work. A local pub, beer and lots of flirting going on amid the din. While it's unhealthy to overindulge in alcohol on a regular basis, an occasional night out won't ruin your health, but it could impact how you perceive others.
While there are hundreds of different reasons concerning how one person might perceive another, as it turns out, alcohol is a factor, at least for men in a recent research study. An increased incidence of men seeing women as sexual objects was found among men who drank alcohol. This wasn't entirely an unexpected result; however, the research was more than just the usual bar stories and anecdotal data. The research is published in Springer's journal Sex Roles. Abigail Riemer of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln led the study.
The study was small, with a total of 49 men in their twenties taking part. The research was conducted in a college laboratory, not a restaurant or pub. The group was divided up, and 29 participants were given two alcoholic beverages. Based on the average weight, this was enough to mildly intoxicate the subjects who received alcohol. The remaining volunteers received a drink that appeared identical to the others but contained no booze. Each man participating was shown photographs of 80 women, all similar in age to the men and all of whom were dressed appropriately for a night out at a club or bar. The guys were asked to rate the women's appearances as well as personalities. Technology that tracked eye movement was also used to record which parts of the women's bodies were focused on by study participants.
The photos used had been previously rated for warmth, intelligence as well as physical attractiveness. When the men were asked to rate women who had scored high in attractiveness, their gaze was most often on the chest or waist area as opposed to their faces. When looking at women who were rated as competent or kind, the gaze was not as focused on the chest and waist but showed attention being paid to the face as well. The men who were a wee bit tipsy after consuming alcohol tended to show signs of "objectification" with more attention focused on areas typically seen as sexually attractive. The findings were not surprising in that they showed the degree to which a man may sexually objectify a woman, is related in part to alcohol intake, as well as how competent or attractive she might seem in a photograph.
Reimer explained, "The sum of these results supports the notion that being perceived as high in humanizing attributes, such as warmth and competence, or being average in attractiveness provides a buffer that protects women from sexual objectification. Environments in which alcohol is present are ripe with opportunities for objectifying gazes. Adopting objectifying gazes toward women leads perceivers to dehumanize women, potentially laying the foundation for many negative consequences such as sexual violence and workplace gender discrimination."
The video below has more information. As always, drink responsibly and treat others with respect, whether at a bar or the office. It's a healthy way to be.