Objects Are Incompetent: Exploring the Impact of Reduced Agency on Men's Experience of Self-objectification


Jason McCain

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Spring 2018


In the years subsequent to its description, researchers applied objectification theory, sometimes without success, to men. The reasons for this failure may be due to men's stereotypical attribution of agency, or the perception that men, as a group, are typically competent. In order to determine the effect that a reduction in competence has on self-objectification in the present study, men's competence was manipulated prior to viewing images of male ideal bodies that were either below average, average, or above average. A measure of self-objectification following the viewing of these images was compared between those individuals whose competence was impeded and those whose competence was not impeded, and between individuals based upon type of male body viewed. Analyses revealed that overall self-objectification scores were higher, via an increase in appearance focus, following the completion of the experimental procedures, but that no statistical differences were found based upon group membership. However, including a measure of task-specific competence in the calculation of self-objectification scores revealed statistical differences between individuals whose competence had been or had not been impeded. These results were interpreted to indicate that male self-objectification may occur in tasks that manipulate competency, but that differences between such groups may not be statistically significant unless a measure of task-specific competency is included. Additional issues with online participant recruitment are discussed.


Benton H. Pierce

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences