An experiencer, an animal or an object? erection salience decreases men's perceived agency

Paulina Gorska*, Magdalena Budziszewska, Marta Marchlewska, Anna Stefaniak, Katarzyna Malinowska, Olga Kuzawinska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three experiments investigated the influence of penile erection on ascriptions of mental capabilities to men. Drawing on sexual objectification literature and the distinction between agency and experience in mind perception, three competing predictions were formulated. The mind redistribution hypothesis assumed that penile erection would lower agency and heighten experience attributions, the animalistic dehumanization hypothesis predicted the decrease in agency, but not experience, and the literal objectification hypothesis implied the simultaneous decrease in both agency and experience. In Experiment 1 (N = 219; 128 females), erection salience lowered agency, but not experience capabilities ascribed to male targets. Experiment 2 (N = 201, 113 females) replicated the negative effect of erection salience on perceived agency (but not experience) and revealed that erection salience lowered intentions to hire a male target. This effect was explained with the loss of perceived agency. Experiment 3 (N = 203, 98 females) verified the causal relationship between penile erection, agency and hiring intentions. Taken together, these results supported the animalistic dehumanization hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2993-3003
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number8
Early online date7 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Mind perception
  • Penile erection
  • Penis size
  • Objectification
  • Dehumanization


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