Elisa Puvia

Puvia, E_pic_edited.jpg


I am a passionate researcher in the field of Social Cognition. I received my Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from the University of Padua, and I am currently a professor in Cognitive Psychology at the John Cabot University of Rome. Over the course of my career, I worked at the University of South Florida (USF), the University of Kent, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Brussels (ULB). 

My research focuses on the objectification of women (i.e., the perception of bodies, especially female bodies, as “objects”). Objectification theory provides a framework for understanding the experience of being a female in a sociocultural context that sexually objectified the female body. In current society, women experience objectification in a wide range of settings, including public places, media, work environments, and intimate relationships. Exposure to sexualized women influences social attitudes and expectations regarding sexuality and gender: it facilitates sexist attitudes. When sexism is associated with sexual objectification it becomes an important factor in favor of the acceptance of violence, aggression, and sexual harassment. This combination fosters the recourse to justifications: “it was she who asked for it”, “it was not a matter of violence”; "I didn't mean to hurt her" and "she wanted it too".

Female objectification is a pervasive and overwhelming phenomenon, that holds severe consequences for those who are objectified. The idea to have the same female subject with nothing but the emotion expressed on her face is powerful in transmitting the idea that we are, as women, always potential victims of the same objectifying culture.   


I investigated various aspects of the phenomenon of sexual female objectification: its cognitive underpinnings and implications in terms of perceived humanness for those who are objectified [1,2,3], females’ motivations to sexualize and even dehumanize other sexually objectified female targets [4,5], the moral implications of the phenomenon [6], and its’ cultural foundation [7,8].

Below is a list of some of my works on this theme:


  1. Vaes, J., Loughnan, S., & Puvia, E. (2013). The inhuman body: When sexual objectification becomes dehumanizing. In Paul G. Bain; Jeroen Vaes; Jacques Philippe Leyens, Humanness and Dehumanization (pp. 186-204). New York: Psychology Press. ISBN: 978-1-84872-610-9.

  2. Vaes, J., Paladino, M.P., & Puvia, E. (2011). Are sexualized women complete human beings? Why do males and females dehumanize sexually objectified women? European Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 774-785. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.824. 

  3. Heflick, N.A., Goldenberg, J.L., Cooper, D.P., & Puvia, E. (2011). From women to objects: Appearance focus, target gender, and perceptions of warmth, morality, and competence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 572-581. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.12.020. 

  4. Puvia, E., & Vaes J. (2015). Promoters versus victims of objectification: Why women dehumanize sexually objectified female targets. International Review of Social Psychology 28(1), 63-93.

  5. Puvia, E., & Vaes, J. (2013). Being a body: Women’s appearance-related self-views and their dehumanization of sexually objectified female targets. Sex Roles, 68, 484-495, doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0255-y.

  6. Loughnan, S., Pina, A., Vasquez, E., & PuviaE. (2013). Sexual objectification increases rape victim blame and decreases perceived suffering. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 37, 455-461, doi: 10.1177/0361684313485718.

  7. Wollast, R., Puvia, E., Bernanrd, P., Tevichapong, P. & Klein, O. (2018). Sexual Objectification Generates Dehumanization in Western and Non-Western Cultures: A Comparison between Belgium and Thailand. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 77(2).

  8. Steve Loughnan, Silvia Fernandez, Jeroen Vaes, Gulnaz Anjum, Mudassar Aziz, Chika Harada, Elise Holland, Indramani Singh, Elisa Puvia, & Koji Tsuchiya (2015). Sexual Objectification is common in Western, but not non-Western nations: A seven nations study of sexual objectification. International Review of Social Psychology, 28(1), 63-93, 125-152.