Sex Roles

, Volume 61, Issue 3–4, pp 147–157 | Cite as

Virtual Virgins and Vamps: The Effects of Exposure to Female Characters’ Sexualized Appearance and Gaze in an Immersive Virtual Environment

Original Article

Abstract

This experiment exposed a sample of U.S. undergraduates (43 men, 40 women) to suggestively or conservatively clad virtual females who exhibited either responsive, high eye gaze or nonresponsive, low gaze in an immersive virtual environment. Outside the virtual world, men and women who encountered a highly stereotypical character—a suggestively clad, high gaze agent (“vamp”) or conservatively clad, low gaze character (“virgin”)—demonstrated more sexism and greater rape myth acceptance than participants who saw a suggestively clad nonresponsive or conservatively clad, responsive character. Results suggest that gender-stereotypical virtual females enhance negative attitudes toward women, whereas those that violate expectations and break stereotypes do not.

Keywords

Sex role stereotypes Media effects Gender schema Virtual reality Video games 

References

  1. Allen, M., D’Alessio, D., & Brezgel, K. (1995a). A meta-analysis summarizing the effects of pornography II: Aggression after exposure. Human Communication Research, 22, 258–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, M., Emmers, T., Gebhart, L., & Giery, M. (1995b). Exposure to pornography and acceptance of rape myths. The Journal of Communication, 45, 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychological Assocation, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353–359.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson, C. A., & Dill, K. E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 772–790.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bailenson, J. N., & Blascovich, J. (2004). Avatars. In W. S. Bainbridge (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human–computer interaction (pp. 64–68). Berkshire: Great Barrington.Google Scholar
  7. Bailenson, J. N., Beall, A. C., Blascovich, J., Loomis, J., & Turk, M. (2005). Transformed social interaction, augmented gaze, and social influence in immersive virtual environments. Human Communication Research, 31, 511–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bailenson, J. N., Yee, N., Merget, D., & Schroeder, R. (2006). The effect of behavioral realism and form realism of real-time avatar faces on verbal disclosure, nonverbal disclosure, emotion recognition, and copresence in dyadic interaction. PRESENCE: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 15, 359–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beasley, B., & Standley, T. C. (2002). Shirts vs. skins: Clothing as an indicator of gender role stereotyping in video games. Mass Communication & Society, 5, 279–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Benedict, H. (1992). Virgin or vamp: How the press covers sex crimes. New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  12. Berger, J., Fisek, H., Norman, R., & Zelditch, M. (1977). Status characteristics and social interaction. New York: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  13. Biocca, F., Harms, C., & Burgoon, J. K. (2003). Toward a more robust theory and measure of social presence: Review and suggested criteria. PRESENCE: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 12, 456–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Blascovich, J., Loomis, J., Beall, A. C., Swinth, K. R., Hoyt, C. L., & Bailenson, J. N. (2002). Immersive virtual environment technology as methodological tool for social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 103–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brightman, J. (2008, April 3). Video games explode: Global revenues now on par with box office. Game Daily. Retrieved December 1, 2008 from http://www.gamedaily.com/articles/news/video-games-explode-global-revenues-now-onpar-with-box-office/?biz=1.
  16. Burgess, M. C. R., Stermer, S. P., & Burgess, S. R. (2007). Sex, lies, and video games: The portrayal of male and female characters on video game covers. Sex Roles, 57, 419–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Burgoon, J. K., Buller, D. B., Hale, J. L., & deTurck, M. A. (1984). Relational messages associated with nonverbal behaviors. Human Communication Research, 10, 351–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dietz, T. L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38, 425–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dill, K. E., & Thill, K. P. (2007). Video game characters and the socialization of gender roles: Young people’s perceptions mirror sexist media depictions. Sex Roles, 57, 851–864.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dill, K. E., Brown, B. P., & Collins, M. A. (2008). Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped video game characters on tolerance of sexual harassment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1402–1408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dovidio, J. F., & Ellyson, S. L. (1985). Patterns of visual dominance behavior in humans. In S. L. Ellyson, & J. F. Dovidio (Eds.), Power, dominance, and nonverbal behavior (pp. 129–149). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Edmonds, E. M., & Cahoon, D. D. (1986). Attitudes concerning crimes related to clothing worn by female victims. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 24, 444–446.Google Scholar
  24. Entertainment Software Association. (2008). Essential facts about the computer and video gaming industry. Retrieved August 21, 2008, from http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/ESA_EF_2008.pdf.
  25. Farris, C., Treat, T. A., Viken, R. J., & McFall, R. M. (2008). Sexual coercion and the misperception of sexual intent. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 48–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T.-A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gailey, C. W. (1993). Mediated messages: Gender, class, and cosmos in home video games. Journal of Popular Culture, 27, 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ganahl, D. J., Prinsen, T. J., & Netzley, S. B. (2003). A content analysis of prime time commercials: A contextual framework of gender representation. Sex Roles, 49, 545–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Geis, F. L., Brown, V., Jennings, J., & Porter, N. (1984). TV commercials as achievement scripts for women. Sex Roles, 10, 513–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 491–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Haninger, K., & Thompson, K. M. (2004). Content and ratings of teen-rated video games. Journal of the American Medical Association, 291, 856–865.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hansen, C. H., & Hansen, R. D. (1988). How rock music videos can change what is seen when boy meets girl: Priming stereotypic appraisal of social interactions. Sex Roles, 19, 287–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Harwood, J., & Anderson, K. (2002). The presence and portrayal of social groups on prime-time television. Communication Reports, 15, 81–97.Google Scholar
  34. Heeter, C. (1992). Being there: The subjective experience of presence. PRESENCE: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 1, 262–271.Google Scholar
  35. Henley, N. M., & Harmon, S. (1985). The nonverbal semantics of power and gender: A perceptual study. In S. L. Ellyson, & J. F. Dovidio (Eds.), Power, dominance, and nonverbal behavior (pp. 151–164). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  36. Herrett-Skjellum, J., & Allen, M. (1996). Television programming and sex stereotyping: A meta-analysis. In B. R. Burleson (Ed.), Communication yearbook (vol. vol. 19, (pp. 157–185)). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Ivory, J. D. (2006). Still a man’s game: Gender representation in online reviews of video games. Mass Communication & Society, 9, 103–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kleinke, C. L. (1986). Gaze and eye contact: A research review. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 78–100.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Koukounas, E., & Letch, N. M. (2001). Psychological correlates of perception of sexual intent in women. The Journal of Social Psychology, 141, 443–456.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lanis, K., & Covell, C. (1995). Images of women in advertisements: Effects on attitudes related to sexual aggression. Sex Roles, 32, 639–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lin, C. A. (1998). Uses of sex appeals in prime-time television commercials. Sex Roles, 38, 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1994). Rape myths: In review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Loomis, J. M., Blascovich, J. J., & Beall, A. C. (1999). Immersive virtual environment technology as a basic research tool in psychology. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 31, 557–564.Google Scholar
  44. Malamuth, N. M., Addison, T., & Koss, M. (2000). Pornography and sexual aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them. Annual Review of Sex Research, 11, 26–93.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. McCoy, S. K., & Major, B. (2007). Priming meritocracy and the psychological justification of inequality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 341–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Miller, M. K., & Summers, A. (2007). Gender differences in video game characters’ roles, appearances, and attire as portrayed in video game magazines. Sex Roles, 57, 733–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mundorf, N., D’Alessio, D., Allen, M., & Emmers-Sommer, T. M. (2006). Effects of pornography. In R. W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, N. Burrell, M. Allen, & J. Bryant (Eds.), Mass media effects research: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 173–189). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  48. Nowak, K. L., & Rauh, C. (2006). The influence of the avatar on online perceptions of anthropomorphism, androgyny, credibility, homophily, and attraction. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 153–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. The Journal of Social Issues, 57, 637–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ridgeway, C. L., & Bourg, C. (2004). Gender as status: An expectation states theory approach. In A. H. Eagly, A. E. Beall, & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The psychology of gender (pp. 217–241, 2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  51. Scharrer, E. (2004). Virtual violence: Gender and aggression in video game advertisements. Mass Communication & Society, 7, 393–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schwartz, N., Wagner, D., Bannert, M., & Mathes, L. (1987). Cognitive accessibility of sex role concepts and attitudes toward political participation: The impact of sexist advertisements. Sex Roles, 17, 593–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Seidman, S. A. (1992). An investigation of sex-role stereotyping in music videos. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 36, 209–216.Google Scholar
  54. Soley, L. C., & Reid, L. N. (1988). Taking it off: Are models in magazine ads wearing less. The Journalism Quarterly, 65, 960–966.Google Scholar
  55. Stankiewicz, J. M., & Rosselli, F. (2008). Women as sex objects and victims in print advertisements. Sex Roles, 57, 579–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stern, S. R., & Mastro, D. E. (2004). Gender portrayals across the life span: A content analytic look at broadcast commercials. Mass Communication & Society, 7, 215–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sundar, S. S. (2007). Social psychology of interactivity in human–website interaction. In A. N. Joinson, K. Y. A. McKenna, T. Postmes, & U.-D. Reips (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of Internet psychology (pp. 89–102). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  58. Thayer, S. (1969). The effect of interpersonal looking duration on dominance judgments. The Journal of Social Psychology, 79, 285–286.Google Scholar
  59. Williams, D. (2006). Virtual cultivation: Online worlds, offline perceptions. The Journal of Communication, 56, 69–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Williams, D., Martins, N., Consalvo, M., & Ivory, J. D. (2009). The virtual census: Representations of gender, race and age in video games. New Media & Society (in press).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations