The Object of Keeping Abreast

Recognition and generalization characterize the internal processing of everything from microbes to humans. Object recognition is an essential aspect of life for all life.

Infants can recognize faces within a month of being born. By five months they can recognize that someone is of a different race. By nine months, they are attuned to the emotional expressions of the people they regularly interact with, but less adept at reading the emotions of strangers.

Our brains see people and objects differently. People can recognize a chair from seeing just a part of a chair, yet seeing part of a face can be a bit baffling. That may seem an odd finding, as it would seem that body parts would be readily identifiable objects, especially faces, considering the innate ability demonstrated by infants.

Presenting the debate order.

As it turns out, some people are readily recognized as objects, while others are recognized as people. Both men and women tend to associate pictures of men, whether right-side-up or upside-down, with the person.

But sexy women, and their body parts, are often seen as objects, not as people. This holds for both men and women. Which is to say that sexual objectification is shared between the sexes.

The biological sense of human aesthetics is naturally drawn to the feminine form. It’s the curves. A man is attractive at best, but a woman can be stunningly beautiful. Consider that the  portraits and statutes of women in art museums greatly outnumbers that of men.

Candidate ogles debate order.

In related news – May 2012: Mexico held its first televised debate among presidential candidates. At the opening of the show, Julia Orayen presented the debate order to each of the candidates. The debate organizers said that Ms. Orayen was chosen “only because she was shorter than other applicants, and therefore less likely to loom over the four candidates.” Ms. Orayen was told to bring her own white dress, which she did.

After the event, the reporting coverage of the debate oddly centered on the presentation of debate order. Apparently debate orders are powerful objects in Mexico. A shame that the nice dress Ms. Orayen wore was not remarked on.

In other related news – 37,000 years ago: A troglodyte in the South of France scratches an image of female genitalia on his cave wall. This invaluable original may be the oldest known cave art.


“Integrating sexual objectification with object versus person recognition: the sexualized-body-inversion hypothesis,” Psychological Science 23: 469-471 (May 2012).

Margaret Vogel et al, “Building biases in infancy: the influence of race on face and voice emotion matching,” Developmental Science, 15 (3): 359 (1 March 2012).

“Debate won by hostess,” The Week (May 10, 2012).

Michael Balter, “Engravings of female genitalia may be world’s oldest cave art,” Science (14 May 2012).

Of Note: Ms. Orayen was a “playmate” featured in the September 2008 Mexican issue of Playboy magazine. Playboy is a well-known purveyor of particular objects people.