The effect of objectification on aggression

Kai Tak POON, Zhansheng CHEN, Fei TENG, Wing-Yan WONG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Do people become more aggressive when they are manipulated as a tool or object that can help others achieve performance goals? Adopting a multi-method approach with Eastern and Western samples, through six experiments (overall valid N = 1070), we tested whether objectification (i.e., being treated as an instrument that aids others in achieving instrumental performance goals) promotes aggression through thwarted perceived control. The results showed that objectified participants had higher levels of aggression than nonobjectified participants (Experiments 1 to 6). Moreover, thwarted perceived control mediated the effect of objectification on aggression (Experiments 3 and 4). In addition, restoring objectified people's perceived control could effectively weaken their aggression level (Experiments 5 and 6). Taken together, these findings highlight the critical influence of perceived control in explaining when and why objectification promotes aggression and how to weaken such an effect. They also highlight the role of perceived control in understanding the consequences of various forms of interpersonal maltreatment in different performance or instrumental settings. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103940
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Early online dateDec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


Poon, K.-T., Chen, Z., Teng, F., & Wong, W.-Y. (2020). The effect of objectification on aggression. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 87. Retrieved from


  • Objectification
  • Aggression
  • Perceived control
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Violence


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