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

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

“Objectification causes serious consequences, from interpersonal indifference, reduced empathy and helping, aggression and intimidation, even murder and genocide,” explains psychologist Xijing Wang of the City University of Hong Kong. “So it is important to find interventions to alleviate objectification.”

According to Wang, objectification refers to treating others as mere things or tools that can help in achieving a goal, denying autonomy, needs, and feelings of others.

“Employees may be treated as mere instruments to aid the financial success of their employers, students may be treated by their peers as note takers, and women may be perceived and treated merely as objects of sexual desire without regard for their personality or dignity. . ”, illustrates Wang.

Combining classical definitions of objectification, Wang suggests that objectification is marked by seven main characteristics:

  1. Instrumentality: When someone treats a target as a tool for their own purpose
  2. Fungibility: When someone treats a target as interchangeable with other objects
  3. violability: When someone treats a target as lacking boundary integrity and violable
  4. Property: 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 in agency or activity
  7. denial of subjectivity: When someone treats a target as someone whose experiences and feelings do not need to be taken into account

Across a series of three studies that included writing gratitude letters and imagining the effects of gratitude in an environment prone to objectifying behaviors, Wang’s research concluded that gratitude, both as a feeling and a gesture, decreased levels of objectification. in a certain environment. .

“Gratitude’s effect on weakening objectification may be due to its ability to reduce people’s focus on their own needs,” explains Wang. “That is, when people become less concerned with their own wants and wants, they are less likely to see others as instruments to satisfy those needs and are less likely to fail to consider the personalities of others.”

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

  1. Reflection: Spend a few minutes every day thinking about the wonderful things in life (like a movie, books, a TV show we like, or even just being able to enjoy the sun).
  2. exposing ourselves to nature: Spend time in nature traveling to a place where you can enjoy magnificent surroundings.
  3. showing appreciation: Writing a thank-you note or verbally thanking or thanking someone.

Wang concludes, “Expressing gratitude doesn’t have to cost you anything financially. So just 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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