The Effects of Objectifying Statements on Women’s Self Esteem, Mood, and Body Image
Research has shown that women have lowered self-confidence ratings after being harassed by a stranger (e.g. Fairfield & Rudman, 2008) and perform worse on a mathematical task after receiving an objectifying gaze (e.g. Gervais, Vescio, & Allen, 2011). This study investigates the effects of objectifying statements from attractive and unattractive strangers on women’s self esteem, body image and happiness. Individuals assumed they were participating in an Accuracy of First Impressions study and completed an online personal questionnaire, from which they believed peers would create a first impression statement. Participants then met in person with the researcher where they received a statement about their personality, attractiveness or objectifying them, paired with a photo of either an attractive or unattractive male. They then completed a first impression questionnaire and inventories including the Body Image Scale, Current Thoughts Scale, and Subjective Happiness Scale. In reality, individual’s information was not shown to anyone and they were randomly assigned to view statements, which were written by the researcher. Results showed that participants who received objectifying statements had more negative feelings toward the male and a lower body image than those who received statements about their personality or attractiveness. Contrary to predictions, women receiving objectifying statements reported more positive emotions and opposing the hypothesis, self-esteem was not altered by statement type. The attractiveness of the male did not have an effect on happiness, self-esteem or body image. This study brings attention to the positive and negative effects of word choice in everyday encounters.