Women who like to show off feel the cold less, study finds

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We have all already met women who, anxious to look their best, prefer to do without a big sweater or a jacket , even when it’s cold — exposing outfits that are more elegant or show them off more physically. However, these women often do not seem to shiver from the cold once outside. A team of psychologists from the University of South Florida took an interest in this phenomenon: according to them, self-objectification allows these people to inhibit the feeling of cold.

The mechanism of self-objectification — a theory of social psychology developed by Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts in 1997 — designates the fact of perceiving one’s body through the gaze of others. This self-objectification has been shown to cause some women to constantly control their appearance down to the smallest detail, in an effort to match the demands of society. Women thus lose awareness of their body, in the sense that they evaluate it according to an external point of view (and not their own view of themselves); these people see themselves as objects of desire in a way.

In a new study, Roxanne N. Felig, a specialist in social psychology, and her colleagues , show that this mechanism could explain the phenomenon often observed where women wearing few clothes during night outings, or in winter, seem not to be bothered by the cold: self-objectification would be an inhibitor of the feeling of cold. These women shy away from warmer, more covering clothes because they flatter them less, or simply don’t match their outfit. “ This corresponds to historical norms of female appearance that prioritize beauty over comfort

”, underlines the psychologist in an article of PsyPost.

When the appearance prevails over any other sensation

If the corsets of the Victorian era are fortunately no longer in fashion, the heels tops and cosmetic surgery are other revealing examples of the prevalence of appearance over comfort, notes the specialist. Previous research on self-objectification had already highlighted the fact that this attitude induces less attention towards certain bodily processes; in particular, it has been associated with a lower perception of the feeling of hunger. According to the researchers, this is explained by the fact that all attention is constantly focused on appearance and the desire to please, leaving little room for the rest.

Felig and his colleagues sought to determine whether self-objectification could have the same effect on the feeling of cold. So they interviewed women (224 in total) outside nightclubs and bars, assessed their level of self-objectification, then asked participants to indicate how cold they felt. The study was conducted over several nights in February; the temperatures then varied between 7°C and 14°C. The researchers also took pictures of the outfit the participants were wearing and then coded them according to the amount of skin exposed.

The hypothesis was confirmed: the results showed that self-objectification clearly influenced the feeling of cold. “ Women with a low level of self-objectification showed a positive and intuitive relationship between skin exposure and perceptions of cold, but women who were more focused on their appearance were not colder when they wore less clothing”, summarize the researchers in the British Journal of Social Psychology. It should be noted that these results were maintained after taking into account the number of drinks consumed, the degree of intoxication felt, the age and the BMI of the participants. This study thus confirms the relationship between self-objectification and awareness of bodily sensations.

Inhibition of sensations or self-persuasion?

PhD student Roxanne Felig is particularly interested in the psychological processes that affect women’s lives. Here she reveals a new mechanism, based on norms relating to appearance, which has a major impact on bodily sensations and which could potentially put women at risk.

Indeed, to the extent that women monitor their appearance, they increasingly disconnect from their own physical experiences and become more vulnerable: “ A person who is not aware of their body when they go to a nightclub may be less likely to recognize that they are intoxicated or to notice the physiological cues indicating that they have been fed a drink. drug

”, explains the specialist in PsyPost.

Disconnecting from their physical experiences in this way can also lead women to make other choices. clothing causing lasting and irreversible damage. For the researchers, it is not a question here of “suffering to be beautiful”. Self-objectification would make women truly numb to discomfort and unaware of the damage it inflicts on their bodies.

It is for example proven that wearing high heels increases the curvature of the back, which can lead to long-term lower back pain. They are also not recommended for people with osteoarthritis in the knees, as they require permanent flexion of these joints. Finally, high heels impose very poor foot support, favoring the appearance of pain, calluses and hallux valgus-type deformation. As for tight-fitting pants (slim or skinny type), they prevent the body from moving freely, impair blood circulation and promote the appearance of vaginal mycosis. Yet they are still as successful with female customers.

The team recognizes another possible explanation for its results: it could be that women who are self-objectifying are more motivated to affirm that they are not cold. “ When attention and energy are devoted to appearance, but at the cost of feeling uncomfortable, it could create cognitive dissonance ”, explain the researchers. Thus, to attenuate this contradiction, the women would adopt a more coherent attitude, persuading themselves here that they are not cold. Another study would be necessary, however, to distinguish this refusal to report the feeling of cold from a real inability to feel the cold.

Source: R. Felig et al., British Journal of Social Psychology