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Sexual objectification of women in media and the gender wage gap: Does exposure to objectifying pictures lower the reservation wage?

Fredrik Carlsson, Mitesh Kataria () and Elina Lampi
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Mitesh Kataria: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden, https://economics.gu.se/

No 824, Working Papers in Economics from University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics

Abstract: Using an online experiment, we investigate the influence of sexual objectification in media on economic decision making. In the experiment, subjects are asked to evaluate advertisements in women’s magazines. In the treatment groups, the ads portray women in sexually objectifying poses, while the poses are neutral in the control group. The main research hypothesis is that sexual objectification tends to make women self-objectify, i.e., they internalize the view of the objectifying images, and as a result, they lower their reservation wage. We find that women in the treatment groups do self-objectify: Women who were exposed to the objectifying images described themselves with words related to body shape or size significantly more often than women in the control group. Adding a warning text about the fact that photoshopped images can create unrealistic body ideals did not mitigate the self-objectification. However, we do not find any effect of the sexual objectification on women’s reservation wages. If we take the results at face value, they do suggest that the objectification of women in media, while having important psychological and emotional effects, does not seem to affect women’s economic behavior, at least not directly.

Keywords: online experiment; sexual objectification; media; economic decision making (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 J16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 26 pages
Date: 2022-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-gen, nep-hme, nep-lab and nep-ltv
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Journal Article: Sexual objectification of women in media and the gender wage gap: Does exposure to objectifying pictures lower the reservation wage? (2024) Downloads
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