How to reduce objectification in society? New psychological research has an answer

A new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology explores how feeling and showing gratitude can make people feel less used and objectified.

“Objectification has serious consequences, ranging from interpersonal indifference, reduced empathy and helping, aggression and intimidation, to murder and genocide,” says psychologist Xijing Wang from City University of Hong Kong. “Therefore, it is important to find interventions to mitigate objectification.”

According to Wang, objectification refers to treating others as mere things or tools that can help achieve one’s goal while denying others’ autonomy, needs, and feelings.

“Employees may be treated as mere instruments contributing to the financial success of their employers, students may be treated by their classmates as note takers, and women may be viewed and treated solely as objects of sexual desire. without regard for their personality or their dignity. », Illustrates Wang.

Combining classic definitions of objectification, Wang suggests that objectification is marked by seven key characteristics:

  1. Instrumentality: When someone treats a target as a tool for their own ends
  2. fungibility: When someone considers a target to be interchangeable with other objects
  3. viability: When someone treats a target as lacking boundary integrity and as breachable
  4. Ownership: When someone treats a target as if the target could be possessed
  5. Denial of autonomy: When someone treats a target as lacking autonomy or self-determination
  6. Inertia: When someone treats a target as lacking agency or activity
  7. Denial of subjectivity: When someone treats a target as someone whose experiences and feelings need not be considered

In a series of three studies involving writing letters of gratitude and imagining the effects of gratitude in an environment prone to objectification behaviors, Wang’s research concluded that gratitude, both as a feeling and as a gesture, reduced the levels of objectification in a given environment. .

“The effect of gratitude on weakening objectification may be due to its ability to reduce people’s attention to their own needs,” says Wang. “That is, when people become less preoccupied with their own wants and desires, they are less likely to see others as instruments for meeting those needs and are less likely to disregard personality. others.”

For people who want to cultivate gratitude in their daily lives, Wang offers three simple tips:

  1. Reflection: Spend a few minutes each day thinking about the wonderful things in life (like a movie, books, TV show we enjoy, or even being able to bask in the sun).
  2. Expose yourself to nature: Spend time in nature traveling to a place where you can enjoy beautiful surroundings.
  3. Show appreciation: Write a thank you note or verbally appreciate or thank someone.

Wang concludes, “Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to cost you anything financially. Then do it.

A full interview with Xijing Wang discussing his new research on gratitude can be found here: How Gratitude Helps Us Feel Whole


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