The Psychology of Nakedness

Conventional wisdom holds that seeing someone naked makes you think of them as more of a sex object than seeing them clothed. According to a recent study, that is an oversimplification of what really happens. The human mind thinks of other people in two different dimensions: agency, or what the person observed can or will do, and experience, or what that person perceives and feels. And the amount of clothing worn changes what dimension the observer focuses on, as seen from an experiment in which people looked at pictures of faces or pictures of faces with some body skin also showing (as shown by the hunky "Aaron" shown here, or the female "Erin").
It turns out that a glimpse of flesh strongly influences our perception of Erin/Aaron. When the pictures only showed a face, they had lots of agency. But when we saw their torso, we suddenly imagined them as obsessed with experience. Instead of being good at self-control, they were suddenly extremely sensitive to hunger and desire. Same person, same facial expression, same brief description – but a hint of body changed everything.

In another experiment, the researchers varied the volunteers’ mindsets, sometimes asking them to look at photos as if they were on an online-dating website, focusing on attractiveness, and sometimes asking them to look at the photos as if they were hiring for a professional job, focusing on the mind. Once again, thinking about how “sexy and cute” someone is – those are bodily attributes – led students to endow them with more experience and less agency. The opposite held when people were asked to evaluate intelligence and efficiency.

Read more about it at Frontal Cortex, but be warned there is no full nudity in the article. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science

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