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The Effects of the Sexualization of Female Video Game Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept

Abstract

The present study utilized an experimental design to investigate the short term effects of exposure to sexualized female video game characters on gender stereotyping and female self-concept in emerging adults. Bussey and Bandura’s (1999) social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation was used to explicate this relationship. Undergraduate students (N = 328) at a large U.S. Southwestern university participated in the study. Students were randomly assigned to play a “sexualized” heroine, a “non-sexualized” heroine, or no video game; then completed an online questionnaire. Female self-efficacy was negatively affected by game play with the sexualized female character. Results cautiously suggest that playing a sexualized video game heroine unfavorably influenced people’s beliefs about women in the real world.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz.

Appendices

Appendix A

Presence

All items were measured on a seven-point scale, ranging from “not at all” (1) to “very much/very well” (7)

How well were you able to control your actions in the video game?

How much did the visual aspects of the game involve you?

How much did the noises/music in the game involve you?

How well were you able to look around or search the game environment?

How well were you able to interact with objects and/or people in the game?

How involved were you in the video game experience?

How well did you adjust to the video game experience?

While playing the video game, I felt I was in the world of the video game.

While playing the video game, I NEVER forgot that I was in the middle of an experiment.

When I stopped playing the video game, I felt like I came back to the “real world” after an experience.

While playing the video game, I was unaware of the noises in the room in which I am sitting.

While playing the video game, I was unaware of the movements of others in the room in which I am sitting.

I was not at all involved in the video game while I was playing it.

I felt like my character was a real person.

During my game play, I felt like I really was my character.

I felt upset when my character did not do well in the game (e.g., was injured, killed, got lost).

I felt happy when my character did well in the game.

I could relate to my character.

Appendix B

Gender Attitudes and Beliefs

The items were measured on a seven-point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7).

Appearance

Women should dress in a traditionally feminine manner.

Compared to men, it is more important that women look their best when appearing in public.

It looks worse for a woman to be drunk than a man.

Women should not look masculine in appearance.

Women should dress in a way that pleases and attracts men.

A woman who dresses in a sexy or provocative manner is more powerful than a woman who does not.

Career/Domestic Work

Women should assume the same positions in business and all the professions along with men.

Jobs that require manual labor (e.g., construction, heavy lifting, etc.) should be done by men rather than women.

A woman’s children should come before her career.

A women’s marriage should come before her career.

Men and women should share housework chores equally.

Women rather than men should do the cooking at home.

Women rather than men should be in charge of child-rearing.

Cognitive Capabilities

Men are more rational than women.

Men are better at problem-solving than women.

Men are better at handling mental challenges than women

Physical Capabilities

Women are as strong as men.

Men are better at handling physical challenges than women.

Women are as athletic as men.

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Behm-Morawitz, E., Mastro, D. The Effects of the Sexualization of Female Video Game Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept. Sex Roles 61, 808–823 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9683-8

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Keywords

  • Video games
  • Gender roles
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Media effects
  • Social cognitive theory