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Young women who post sexy pictures of themselves online are seen as less competent and attractive by their female peers.
At least, this is the result of new research into perception and social media, which found that sexy online equals incompetence on the job.
While there have been numerous studies around how women are perceived when depicted in a sexualised manner, a provocative new study out of the University of California found that non-sexualised photographs of women are actually perceived as more competent, prettier and more desirable as a friend.
Co-author Elizabeth Daniels, a psychology professor at the University of California told the Los Angeles Times that in order to find out how how different women are perceived, they created two fake Facebook profiles for a young woman named Amanda Johnson. The profiles were exactly the same except for the main profile image.
In one profile, “Amanda” wore jeans and a shirt and a scarf around her neck, while in the other she wore a sexy low-cut red dress, with a split down the thigh.
Then 118 participants were asked whether they thought each girl in the photo was pretty, whether she would make a good friend and whether they had “confidence in her ability to get a job done”.
“Amanda” in the jeans did significantly better than “Amanda” in the sexy dress – she was not only considered a better friend, but she was considered hugely more competent in being able to get tasks done.
Daniels and co-author, Dr. Eileen Zurbriggen, said the results not only show a need to educate young professionals on how to better promote themselves on social media, but that the results also indicate the need for a bigger cultural shift in society.
“Once a picture is posted to Facebook (or elsewhere online), it’s out there. … there’s a permanent digital trail that previous generations didn’t have to worry about,” Zurbriggen told the LA Times.
“Even 20 years ago, a woman could act and dress ‘sexy’ in college but then put on a suit when she graduated and went on job interviews. Now, those sexualized photographs that she posted to Instagram or Facebook are hard to erase and may impact her employability.”