Top 10 Mind-Blowers: Nudity

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From the mythic Garden of Eden to modern humanity's Pioneer Plaques, there's no denying the cultural weight of human nudity.

The natural human form elicits everything from admiration and passion to disgust and outrage, yet the forms you see at the top of this page are simply who and what we are. The naked ape ascended, draped itself in clothing, complicated its every biological impulse with culture, and in doing so changed nudity forever.

And so, quite ludicrously, the naked human form now resonates with power. Let's explore 10 ways that nudity affects us in our daily lives.

Nude Women are Objects
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The objectification of women is a problematic reality. They make up 50 percent of the species. Their bodies contain minds and those minds are as capable of all the wonders and horrors that any male mind can summon. Yet far too often we see them not as individuals but as a pile of body parts.

It sounds like a grisly set up for a horror film, but it's true.

According to a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, men and women both tend to see women as an assemblage of pieces rather than a complete whole.

When shown flashcards of naked male and female anatomy, test subjects consistently recognized female sexual body parts more easily when presented in isolation. They only found male sexual body parts memorable when considered as part of their entire bodies.

Chalk it up to equal parts genetic programing and human culture, but it's a reality we live with.

Nudity Makes Us Merciful
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How much can you hate a naked person? I imagine it depends on the circumstances, but to remove the clothes of an individual is to alter the presentation of that person entirely.

Based on the findings from a 2013 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it seems that we attribute the nude more experience, less power and an increased ability to experience pain.

Far from dehumanizing, nudity has the power to remind us what we all truly are.

See the full image right here.

Women Like Nudity Too
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It's easy to obsess over the male gaze and female objectification, but of course the pleasing and arousing power of nudity cuts across all genders and sexual orientations.

A 2007 study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto applied rigorous study to our genital responses to both sexual and nonsexual nude footage, both human and non-human.

Unsurprisingly, they found that both sexes responded weakest to nonsexual nude exercise footage and strongest to intercourse footage. They found that women were generally less concerned with the sex (or species) of the individuals in the videos and placed more importance on the level of depicted sexual activity.

Unsurprisingly, homosexual women responded more to nude females exercising and masturbating than to nude males, while heterosexual women responded about the same to both sexes.

Nudity in the Home is Good

Adult nudity is one thing, but what about the children?

Prior to the late 198os, research on the effects of parental nudity on children was scarce. Meanwhile, horror stories of nudist-twisted young minds abounded. But according to UCLA psychology professor Paul Abramson, who co-authored an 18-year study on parental nudity, there's no evidence of any harm stemming from parental nudity.

In fact, as discussed in this Quest article, studies have generally associated nudity with beneficial outcomes, such as increased self-esteem, sexual knowledge, lower rates of theft and drug use in adolescence and improved relations with adults outside the family -- as well as increased comfort with physical and emotional intimacy as adults.

Nudity Tunes Up The Brain

We can attribute much of nudity's power to the fact that we're hardwired to drink it up.

According to a 2011 study from the University of Tampere and Aalto University in Finland, our brains boost the processing of sexually arousing signals and actually access nude and clothed bodies in different ways.

Sexual or potentially sexual images process faster. Our brain is like the bouncer at a fancy club who let's the hot, sexy people skip the line. And as our basic genetic mission is to breed and propagate, that makes perfect sense.

Naked Flesh is a Diagnostic Tool
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For all our layered garments, humans are still creatures of flesh -- and our flesh tells a tale. In fact, you can think of our naked skin as a communication array of sorts.

According to neurobiologist Mark Changizi, color vision may have evolved in order for us to detect emotive skin color changes, such as blushing. Full-body skin color changes also occur due to hundreds of different diseases, but we often don't notice because there's no baseline skin color to compare them to.

In a 2010 paper published in Medical Hypothesis, Changizi argued that doctors might better notice these changes if hospital gowns and bed sheets were colored to match a patient's normal skin color. That way, the contrast would be instantly noticeable in the event of cyanosis and other health-related skin color changes. Listen to the skin...

Nudity Makes Us Ashamed
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Perhaps you're wondering why nudity is so associated with shame.

Most psychologists (as well common sense) will tell you we're not born ashamed of our bodies. Toddlers especially are utterly fearless in their nudity, but along the way we inevitably learn to conform to societal standards, cover up those fleshy bits and become ashamed of what we are beneath our garments.

As discussed in this article by Ransom Riggs, the predominant theory is that too much social gregariousness and too much nudity among early humans simply made for a powder keg of temptation. As such, mandatory clothing and recommended body shame became codified in society as a means of protecting mating pairs.

Nudity Makes Men Less Aggressive
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Certainly female nudity has the power to distract the heterosexual male, but does it have the power to calm him and make him less aggressive?

Context is key of course. A 1995 meta-analysis of the effects of pornography viewing on aggression found that media depictions of both non-violent and violent sexual activity boosted aggression in test subject -- more so in the case of violent material.

Yet the same study found that non-sexual, pictorial nudity actually reduced subsequent aggressive behavior. Meanwhile, a 2000 study published in Law and Human Behavior also found that heterosexual men become less aggressive subsequent to seeing images of nude women.

Nudity Kills Male Willpower
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Sex sells, especially if you're selling your product to heterosexual men.

According to a 2008 Belgian study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the mere sight of a bikini or lingerie model can take a serious toll on male willpower. They discovered that heterosexual men who watched sexy videos or handled lingerie sought immediate gratification - even when they were making decisions about money, soda, and candy.

In this, nude or semi-nude imagery causes a shift in time preference, forcing the male gazer to live in the moment without concern for past plans or future promises. He is powerless to resist. Is it any wonder our world is so ticker-taped with idealized models shilling products at us?

Nudity is a Superpower
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Human evolution denied us the natural protection of shells and armored plating, but it granted us tool use and a massive brain do devise whole armories of protective padding and plating. As such, the concept of naked combat is terrifying... and oddly liberating.

Accounts of naked warriors are sprinkled throughout history, from Roman accounts of the ancient Celts to modern tales of Liberia's "General Butt Naked" Joshua Blahyi. But how could nudity possible provide such a super power-up to the natural warrior?

For starters, consider our earlier study in which test subjects found the naked more experience-driven rather than agency driven, which is to say they seem less capable of self-control and morality and more interested is base satisfaction. They become, in a sense, the primal beast we all truly are at heart. Wear that birthday suit with enough gusto and perhaps it will make all the difference.

You've reached the end of the article. If you're not already naked, then perhaps it's time to shed your garments and become fully human again.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.