A woman who is more aware of her body from within is less likely to think of her body principally as an object, according to new research from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London.
“People have the remarkable ability to perceive themselves from the perspective of an outside observer. However, there is a danger that some women can develop an excessive tendency to regard their bodies as ‘objects,’ while neglecting to value them from within, for their physical competence and health,” said Dr. Manos Tsakiris from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway.
“Women who ‘self-objectify’, in this way, are vulnerable to eating disorders and a range of other clinical conditions such as depression and sexual dysfunction.”
For the study, researchers recruited healthy female student volunteers between the ages of 19 and 26 and asked them to concentrate and count their own heartbeats, simply by “listening” to their bodies.
The women’s accuracy in this heartbeat perception test was then compared to their degree of self-objectification, based on how important they considered 10 body attributes as linked to their sense of self.
Attributes were both appearance-based, such as attractiveness and body measurements, and competence-based, such as health and energy levels.
The more precise the volunteers were in detecting their heartbeats, the less likely they were to think of their bodies as objects.
These results have important implications, according to the researchers, for shedding more light on how body image dissatisfaction and clinical disorders are linked to self-objectification — such as in anorexia.
“We believe that our measure of body awareness, which assesses how well women are able to listen to their internal signals, will prove a valuable addition to research into self-objectification and women’s resulting mental health,” said the researchers.
The research was published in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
Source: PLoS ONE