As if the women-are-mathematically-challenged myth needed any help being perpetuated, surprising new research shows that being seen as sexy can mess with a woman’s math skills.
Published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly journal, the study involved 150 American college students who helped determined the effect of what’s called the “objectifying gaze”-the visual scrutiny of one’s body by another person.
The male students looked at the female students as sexual objects, and vice-versa, in an academic setting. Although the “objectifying gaze” had essentially no impact on the men, it had two distinct effects on the women.
First, being seen as a sexual object made the women more likely to respond as exactly that, showing increased motivation to interact with the gazer. (It didn’t do a thing for men’s interest in interacting, contrary to what many may think.)
The second and more perplexing effect: being the recipient of an “objectifying gaze” lowered the women’s math scores.
Although the researchers-all women-didn’t give an explanation for why this would happen, they recognize how troublesome it could be.
“The objectifying gaze is particularly problematic for women,” they wrote. “And it may lead to a vicious cycle in which women are first objectified and, as a result, underperform, confirming the notion that women’s looks are more important than what they can do.”
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