It is not only men, but women too, who perceive the opposite sex differently, when it comes to sporting revealing outfits or being naked, a new study has revealed.
The researchers say that it would be absurd to think people's mental capacities fundamentally change when they remove clothing.
"In six studies, however, we show that taking off a sweater--or otherwise revealing flesh--can significantly change the way a mind is perceived."
The new study by University of Maryland psychologist Kurt Gray and colleagues from Yale and Northeastern University both expand and change our understanding of how paying attention to someone's body can alter how both men and women view both women and men.
Past research and feminist theories have suggested for long that when men see women wearing little or nothing, they focus on their bodies and think less of their minds.
"An important thing about our study is that, unlike much previous research, ours applies to both sexes."
"It also calls into question the nature of objectification because people without clothes are not seen as mindless objects, but they are instead attributed a different kind of mind," says UMD's Gray.
The recent findings indicate that rather than looking at others on a continuum from object to human, we see others as having two aspects of mind: agency and experience.
Agency is the capacity to act, plan and exert self-control, whereas experience is the capacity to feel pain, pleasure and emotions.
When men and women in the study focused on someone's body, perceptions of agency (self-control and action) were reduced, and perceptions of experience (emotion and sensation) were increased.
Gray and colleagues suggest that this effect occurs because people unconsciously think of minds and bodies as distinct, or even opposite, with the capacity to act and plan tied to the 'mind' and the ability to experience or feel tied to the body.
The study has been recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.