Both men and women perceive women in their underwear who are posing in advertisements or billboards as objects, but see men in their underwear posing in the same type of advertisements as people, according to a new psychological study.

Researchers reporting in the May 2012 issue of the journal Psychological Science explained that based their findings on a psychological theory that the brain perceives people and objects differently.

Previous studies have shown that while it is easy for people to recognize a whole face, people find it difficult to determine just part of a face. On the other hand recognizing a whole chair is just as easy as recognizing parts of a chair. 

Psychologists have thus been able to test whether something is perceived as an object by turning it upside-down, because research has shown that while participants had trouble recognizing upside-down pictures of people, upside down pictures of objects did not produce a recognition problem.

Lead researcher Philippe Bernard, of the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and his research team showed participants pictures of men and women wearing only underwear in sexualized poses. After participants were shown a picture, they were shown a black screen for a brief moment and then shown two images in which they had to choose the one that best matches to the one they had previously seen.

"What’s unclear is, we don’t actually know whether people at a basic level recognize sexualized females or sexualized males as objects," Bernard said in a statement. "What is motivating this study is to understand to what extent people are perceiving these [images] as human or not."

The findings shown that both male and female participants were better at recognizing right-side-up men compared to upside-down men, but were equally as good as recognizing right-side-up and upside-down images of women. 

Based on the results, researchers suggested that both men and women saw sexualized men as people, but saw sexy women as objects. 

Bernard said that he plans on studying seeing sexualized women in advertisement influences how people treat women.