Sex Doesn’t Always Sell: The Effects of Objectifying Images on the Perceived Competence of a Spokeswoman

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Abstract

What effect might exposure to sexually objectifying images of women have on how female perceivers subsequently rate a spokeswoman’s competence? Because sexually objectifying images dehumanize and devalue women, perceivers were predicted to rate the spokeswoman as less competent. Female undergraduates in the United States participated in a laboratory experiment in which they either saw objectifying or control images of women before they listened to a speech by a spokeswoman who either had a lean or heavier body build. The spokeswoman’s body build had no effect on her perceived competence. However, relative to controls, women who had first seen objectifying images of other women saw the spokeswoman as less effective and were less persuaded by her. The implications of these findings for objectification theory and advertising are discussed.

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