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That Swimsuit Becomes You: Sex Differences in Self-Objedification, Restrained Eating, and Math Performance

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Objectification theory (B. L. Fredrickson & T. Roberts, 1997) posits that American culture socializes women to adopt observers' perspectives on their physical selves. This self-objectification is hypothesized to (a) produce body shame, which in turn leads to restrained eating, and (b) consume attentional resources, which is manifested in diminished mental performance. Two experiments manipulated self-objectification by having participants try on a swimsuit or a sweater. Experiment 1 tested 72 women and found that self-objectification increased body shame, which in turn predicted restrained eating. Experiment 2 tested 42 women and 40 men and found that these effects on body shame and restrained eating replicated for women only. Additionally, self-objectification diminished math performance for women only. Discussion centers on the causes and consequences of objectifying women's bodies.
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... Self-objectification initially focused on the sexual aspect of self-objectification, which entails individuals, often women, internalizing the perceptions that others have of them and seeing themselves as sexual objects for use instead of human beings (e.g., Fredrickson et al., 1998;Moradi & Huang, 2008;X. Wang, Chen, Chen, & Yang, 2021). ...
... Moreover, self-objectification initially focused on the sexual aspect of self-objectification, which entails individuals, often women, focusing on their appearance, in terms of it being of instrumental use to others, instead of their inner human qualities (e.g., Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997;Fredrickson et al., 1998;Moradi & Huang, 2008). A burgeoning number of empirical studies have started to examine self-objectification in nonsexual domains, such as working self-objectification and power holders' selfobjectification (Inesi et al., 2014). ...
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Self-objectification can be considered as a specific kind of self-dehumanization that consists of a perception of oneself as more instrument-like than human-like and a decreased self-attribution of mental states. Self-objectification is commonly observed, and its contributing factors need to be better understood. In the present research, we examined whether cultural tightness, which entails strong social norms and punishments for deviant behaviors, is an antecedent to self-objectification. Our hypotheses were confirmed by four studies, involving quasi-experiments and fully controlled experiments ( N = 2,693). In particular, Chinese college students living in a region with a tight culture (compared to a loose culture, Study 1), American employees working in an industry with a tight corporate culture (compared to a loose culture, Study 2), American participants who were induced to support cultural tightness (vs. cultural looseness, Study 3), and those who were situated in a simulated tight culture (vs. a loose culture, Study 4) all showed increased levels of self-objectification. As such, they acknowledged their personhood less and focused more on their instrumentality. Implications are discussed.
... Research has confirmed a reduction in cognitive performance as a function of higher self-objectification (for a review, see Quinn, Chaudoir, & Kallen, 2011). Experimental studies have demonstrated worse performance on math tests and other cognitively demanding tasks (e.g., Stroop test) when self-objectification has been induced by having women wear a swimsuit in front of a mirror (Fredrickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998), videotaping women from the neck down during a trivial task (Gay & Castano, 2010), having male confederates ogle women (Gervais et al., 2011), or viewing music videos high in sexual objectification (Aubrey & Gerding, 2015), all of which simulate real-world instances of objectifying experiences for women. ...
... Research has shown that self-objectification is positively associated with body shame (Calogero, 2004), body guilt (Calogero & Pina, 2011), and appearance anxiety (Tiggemann & Slater, 2001) and negatively associated with body esteem (Strelan, Mehaffey, & Tiggemann, 2003) and body satisfaction (Fitzsimmons-Craft et al., 2012). These patterns are particularly concerning given the significant role of self-objectification in women's support and desire for cosmetic surgery (Calogero, More self-injury (Muehlenkamp et al., 2005) Negatively view reproductive functions (Johnston-Robeldo, Fricker et al., 2007;Johnston-Robeldo, Sheffield et al., 2007;Roberts, 2004) More self-sexualization (Liss, Erchull, & Ramsey 2011;Smolak, Murnen, & Myers 2014) Prolonged body thoughts (Quinn et al., 2006) More appearance-drive exercise (Strelan et al., 2003) Narrowed cognitive processing (Aubrey & Gerding, 2015;Fredrickson et al. 1998 More substance abuse More support and experience of cosmetic surgery (Calogero et al., 2010; (Gapinski et al., 2003) More body-based social comparisons (Tylka & Sabik, 2010) More body guilt (Calogero & Pina, 2011) Lower self-esteem ( ...
... The authors suggested that objectification theory could be linked to depression, sexual dysfunctions, and eating disorders, an assertion supported by later research (Culbert, Racine, & Klump, 2015;Ordaz et al., 2018;Robbins & Reissing, 2018b). Fredrickson et al. (1998) were the first to test the posits of the theory, finding that selfobjectification increased shame, which predicted restricted eating behaviors. They also found that self-objectification decreased math performance in females as well. ...
... Female college students, who are in an important period of physiological development and are more sensitive to their physical appearance, are prone to excessive selfobjectification, such as posting selfies or being exposed to others' beautified photos and giving feedback (likes and comments) anytime and anywhere (de Valle et al., 2021). Previous research has found that self-objectification is more prevalent in young women and can trigger a range of physical and mental health problems, such as inducing external manifestations of disordered eating behaviors, excessive body monitoring, and body shame (Fredrickson et al., 1998;Zhang et al., 2021). However, the experience of online sexual objectification is a common form of self-objectification experience, specifically an experience of extensive attention to the appearance on social media that encompasses both media and interpersonal approaches to objectification and can significantly predict others' sense of objectification (Luo, 2017). ...
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Objective With the popularization and development of online media technology, more and more women are paying attention to their body image and physical behavior. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of online sexual objectification experience on the physical activity of female college students and verify the mediating role of body-image depression between them. Methods A cross-sectional convenient sample of 882 female college students from four universities in Hubei Province completed an online survey, and the Online Sexual Objectification Experience Scale (OSOES), the Body-Image Depression Questionnaire, and the Physical Activity Rating Scale (PARS) were used to collect the data. The mediating effect of the association between online sexual objectification experience and physical activity, was examined using the process procedure in SPSS and the bootstrap method. Results Online sexual objectification experience was significantly positively correlated with physical activity ( r = 0.420, p < 0.01). Body-image depression was significantly negatively correlated with online sexual objectification experience and physical activity ( r = −0.484, p < 0.01; r = −0.569, p < 0.01). Online sexual objectification experience can affect physical activity directly (β = 6.49, p < 0.001, effect value 44.97%) and also indirectly through body-image depression (β = 7.95, p < 0.001, effect value 55.03%); there were significant differences between major and education-level categories in body-image depression and physical activity. Conclusion Both online sexual objectification experience and body-image depression can promote physical activity among female college students, and body-image depression has a mediating effect between online sexual objectification experience and physical activity.
... Indeed, previous studies have demonstrated gender differences in food-related visual attention and decisionmaking (Banović et al., 2016;Hummel et al., 2018). Gender may also affect the levels of other factors closely related to eating behaviors, such as weight dissatisfaction and concerns, objectified body consciousness, and emotional functioning (Fredrickson et al., 1998;Haynos et al., 2018;Herman & Polivy, 2010). These variables should be considered in future studies. ...
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