People who are mean and antagonistic towards others are the ones who look at women as merely sex objects, a study has revealed.
Being openly antagonistic is the strongest predictor for attitudes of sexual objectification, followed closely by disinhibition or being impulsive.
According to researchers from Emory University in the US, several personality traits related to psychopathy -- especially being openly antagonistic -- predict a tendency to view others as merely sex objects.
Psychopathy is a personality disorder associated with a constellation of characteristics, such as boldness, impulsivity, narcissism, cold-heartedness, disinhibition and meanness.
"Understanding the personality traits associated with sexual objectification allows us to identify those at risk of having this attitude and to potentially design an intervention for them," said Thomas Costello, first author of the study.
"This is important because sexual objectification can be a precursor to sexual harassment and sexual violence," Costello added.
While the #MeToo movement has raised awareness of the ongoing problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault, much less is known about those likely to think of someone as little more than their sexual parts.
The new study published in the journal "Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment" could be the first to identify key personality correlates of interpersonal sexual objectification, according to the authors.
For the current study, the researchers wanted to test whether traits underlying psychopathy -- which is associated with sexual aggression, harassment and violence -- could provide a framework for understanding and statistically predicting attitudes of sexual objectification among the general population.
The study used a self-reporting survey that included questions about attitudes, as well as behaviours, regarding sexual objectification and measurements of psychopathy-related personality traits.
The researchers collected data from 800 US community members drawn from Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing platform.
An analysis of the data showed that meanness, or being antagonistic towards others, was the strongest predictor for attitudes of sexual objectification, followed closely by disinhibition.
Cold-heartedness and boldness were also predictors, but the effect sizes were smaller.
Most people who have some personality traits associated with psychopathy do not fulfil the criteria for full-blown psychopathy, explained Scott Lilienfeld, senior author of the paper and an expert on personality disorders.
"These so-called 'dark' personality traits occur on a continuum, like height and weight or blood pressure," he explained.
"Many people have at least some of these traits to some degree, and other people may not have any of them to a high degree," Lilienfeld said.