A new study has suggested that women tend to find ads with sexual imagery off-putting, unless the advertised item is priced high enough.
Psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, a researcher at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues predicted that women’s negative attitudes toward sexual imagery might soften if sex is depicted in a way that is consistent with the values of sex being seen as highly valued and of great worth.
Sexual imagery may be less off-putting to women, for example, if it is paired with high-priced consumer goods, which can convey exclusivity and high value.
To test this prediction, Vohs and colleagues Jaideep Sengupta and Darren Dahl had male and female participants come to the lab and view advertisements for women’s watches. In some of the advertisements, the watch was presented with a sexually explicit image, whereas in others the watch was pictured with a majestic mountain range. Importantly, some of the ads priced the watch at 10 dollars and others at 1,250 dollars.
To measure the participants’ gut reactions toward the ads, the researchers had them memorize a 10-digit code before viewing the ads, a cognitive distraction designed to prevent them from thinking too deeply about the ads. Then, after reciting the code, participants were asked about their attitudes and emotional reactions toward the ads.
Overall, women who saw the sexual imagery with the cheap watch rated the ad more negatively in comparison to women who saw the sexual imagery with the pricey watch.
These negative ratings seem to be driven by women’s negative emotions – feeling upset, disgusted, unpleasantly surprised, or angry – in response to the ad that paired sexual imagery with the cheap watch.
Men, on the other hand, reported similar reactions to the sex-based ads, regardless of the advertised price of the watch.
The researchers note that price only made a difference for women in regards to the ads that included sexual imagery. Female participants showed no differences in ratings for the cheap and expensive watches when they were paired with the mountain range.
The study was published in journal Psychological Science. (ANI)