Scantily-Clad People Are Viewed as Less Competent, More Sensitive
A University of Maryland study conducted with both male and female volunteers discovered that, as with women, scantily-clad men are seen as more sensitive but less competent than their fully-clothed counterparts.
According to the researchers, we all view others as having two aspects of mind: the ability to plan, act and exert self-control, called “agency,” and the capacity to feel, called “experience.” So in this experiment, one of the first to apply to both sexes instead of just women, participants were asked to focus on both the body and the mind of photos of people in various states of dress.
The results revealed that both men and women thought people who weren’t wearing clothes were less competent and had less moral responsibility, but gave them more credit for experiencing emotion and found them to be more deserving of protection.
“[Some] appear to be less inclined to harm people with bare skin and more inclined to protect them,” said study researcher and University of Maryland psychologist Kurt Gray. “In one experiment, for example, people viewing male subjects with their shirts off were less inclined to give those subjects uncomfortable electric shocks than when the men had their shirts on.”
But wearing fewer clothes also has a downside, Gray said. For example, an increased desire to protect a scantily dressed woman from harm could result in “benevolent sexism,” or seeing women as weak and unable to take care of themselves.