Wearing less revealing and more comfortable clothing makes other people feel more empathy towards you, new research finds.
However, when women in the study wore a short dress, heels and heavy make-up, it reduced how much empathy others felt towards them.
The same was true whether it was a man or woman observing the other woman.
When wearing comfortable trousers, a jersey, ballet flats and light make-up, others felt more empathy towards them.
The results are likely because revealing more skin tends to make people see us more as a sexual object, rather than a person.
Dr Giorgia Silani, who led the study, said:
“The results suggests that the underlying mechanism may be a reduced activation of the brain’s empathy network.”
Sexual objectification also robs a person of their apparent ability to plan their actions and have a moral sense in the eye of the beholder.
The results come from a study in which 41 people (half women) watched a video designed to test empathic reactions.
Brain scans measured how they reacted to the sexualised and non-sexualised target.
Dr Silani concluded:
“This reduction in empathic feelings towards sexually objectified women was accompanied by reduced activity in empathy related brain areas.
This suggests that observers experienced a reduced capacity to share the sexualized women’s emotions”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Cortex (Cogoni et al., 2018).