Power and the objectification of social targets
Objectification has been defined historically as a process of subjugation whereby people, like objects, are treated as means to an end. The authors hypothesized that objectification is a response to social power that involves approaching useful social targets regardless of the value of their other human qualities. Six studies found that under conditions of power, approach toward a social target was driven more by the target's usefulness, defined in terms of the perceiver's goals, than in low-power and baseline conditions. This instrumental response to power, which was linked to the presence of an active goal, was observed using multiple instantiations of power, different measures of approach, a variety of goals, and several types of instrumental and noninstrumental target attributes. Implications for research on the psychology of power, automatic goal pursuit, and self-objectification theory are discussed.