University Study Finds That, for Women, Social Media Photos Can Be a No-Win Situation

A new study by Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, and Eileen L. Zurbriggen, a professor of psychology the University of California, Santa Cruz, reveals that women who post sexy photographs on social media sites are viewed as less physically and socially attractive by other women and are deemed less competent to perform tasks.

The authors created two fictional profiles on Facebook with identical information except the profile picture was different. In one photo, the subject was wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up one leg. In the other photo, the same subject wore a t-shirt with a scarf draped around her neck covering her chest and jeans. Subjects were shown one of the two profiles and then were asked to complete a questionnaire. Survey participants were asked on a scale of 1 to 7 how attractive the woman in the profile was, if they thought they could be friends with the person profiled, and whether they thought the person profiled was competent. On all three questions, the woman in the sexy profile scored significantly lower than the same woman pictured in a less sexy outfit.

“This is a clear indictment of sexy social media photos,” said Dr. Daniels. “There is so much pressure on teen girls and young women to portray themselves as sexy, but sharing those photos online may have more negative consequences than positive.”

Dr. Daniels is a graduate of Georgetown University and earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Zurbriggen holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University and a second master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

The study, “The Price of Sexy: Viewers’ Perceptions of a Sexualized Versus Non-Sexualized Facebook Profile Photo,” was published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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