When sex doesn't sell: Using sexualized images of women reduces support for ethical campaigns

Bongiorno, Renata, Bain, Paul G., & Haslam, Nick (2013) When sex doesn't sell: Using sexualized images of women reduces support for ethical campaigns. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e83311.

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Abstract

Images of scantily clad women are used by advertisers to make products more attractive to men. This ‘‘sex sells’’ approach is increasingly employed to promote ethical causes, most prominently by the animal-rights organization PETA. Yet sexualized images can dehumanize women, leaving an unresolved paradox – is it effective to advertise an ethical cause using unethical means? In Study 1, a sample of Australian male undergraduates (N = 82) viewed PETA advertisements containing either sexualized or non-sexualized images of women. Intentions to support the ethical organization were reduced for those exposed to the sexualized advertising, and this was explained by their dehumanization of the sexualized women, and not by increased arousal. Study 2 used a mixed-gender community sample from the United States (N = 280), replicating this finding and extending it by showing that behaviors helpful to the ethical cause diminished after viewing the sexualized advertisements, which was again mediated by the dehumanization of the women depicted. Alternative explanations relating to the reduced credibility of the sexualized women and their objectification were not supported. When promoting ethical causes, organizations may benefit from using advertising strategies that do not dehumanize women.

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ID Code: 82786
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083311
ISSN: 1932-6203
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > MARKETING (150500) > Marketing Communications (150502)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Gender Psychology (170105)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Social and Community Psychology (170113)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Funding:
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Bongiorno et al.
Copyright Statement: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Deposited On: 01 Apr 2015 23:29
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2015 23:33

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