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Study: Women Who Post Sexy Pics Online Are Viewed as Less Intelligent, Less Friendly

Daniel Bean
Assistant Editor
Yahoo Tech

Women who post provocative pictures of themselves on Facebook and Instagram are overall viewed as less intelligent and less friendly, according to a new study by the Journal of Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Researchers surveyed the reactions of over one hundred teenage girls and young women (ages 13-25) to two versions of a Facebook page for a girl named “Amanda,” reports the Los Angeles Times, who obtained a copy of the study and had a talk with its authors.

In the study, researchers showed participants two Facebook profiles of a girl named “Amanda” that were identical, save for the profile pictures. One version that the survey-takers viewed featured Amanda in a conservative jeans and shirt outfit, with her chest covered by a scarf. The other portion of the study participants saw the sexy profile, featuring a picture of Amanda wearing a revealing red dress and a thigh-high slit that exposed a garter.

Each study participant was then asked to rate Amanda on her competence, friendliness, and attractiveness, based upon what she had seen and read on the particular profile. The results: The scantily-clad clad Amanda was given lower marks in all three areas.

(We may have to accept that the incompetent part is on a sliding scale, as a study published earlier this year that reported we are all generally getting dumber by using social media.)

But of the “Amanda” study, the project’s Eileen Zurbriggen of UC Santa Cruz told The Times: “This is one of the first studies to show that not only do other women and girls perceive the women in non-sexualized photographs as more competent, they’re also seen as prettier and more desirable as a friend.”

This type of research, until now, was limited to other forms of mass media, not social media, that according to Was Daniels, Zurbriggen’s co-author and assistant psychology professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. But she and Zurbriggen agreed that it’s now become important to factor in the digital social relations of today, and educating young men and women about the new online trail that follows each user is important. According to their work, understanding the way in which users are perceiving each other online can be even be impactful to foundational areas of life, like friendship and employability.

And coincidentally, as it’s becoming more common for our social media portraits to impact how others see us in real life, it may also be the case that social media is influencing narcissism, causing us not to give a damn about what others think. A separate study released this week claims as much, reporting that 89.5-percent of those surveyed had pictures of themselves as his or her profile picture.

Correlated narcissism tests found links to self-centered Facebook behaviors for men and women, with narcissism for the latter gender being linked to frequency of updates, as well as frequency of replacing profile pictures.

“Every narcissist needs a reflecting pool. Just as Narcissus gazed into the pool to admire his beauty, social networking sites, like Facebook, have become our modern-day pool,” said University of North Florida’s Dr. Tracy Alloway, the study lead.

Of course, as Yahoo Tech has covered in the past, not being mindful in filtering the kind of wild sexuality and debauchery you post may have a direct effect on your job status, regardless of how little you care about what others think. If you are Facebook friends with co-workers, or have just decided not to lock out public viewing of your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles, it’s probably best to be on your best behavior more than not.

So, ladies (and men!), some professional take-home advice from this project might be to selfie if you must, but selfie sensibly. And maybe we should agree to just go ahead and keep the really sexy stuff on Snapchat, too.