Increased Cognitive Load during Video Game Play Reduces Rape Myth Acceptance and Hostile Sexism after Exposure to Sexualized Female Avatars
The present study investigated how task demand (cognitive load and interactivity) and avatar sexualization in a video game influenced rape myth acceptance (RMA), hostile sexism, and self-objectification. In a between-subjects design, 300 U.S. college students either played or watched someone else play a videogame as either a sexualized or non-sexualized female avatar under high (memorize 7 symbols) or low (memorize 2 symbols) cognitive load. Hypotheses were derived from the limited capacity model of motivated mediated message processing (LC4MP) and perspectives on stereotype processing. Results contradicted hypotheses that greater task demands and sexualization would produce greater RMA, hostile sexism, and self-objectification. Instead, we found that sexualization did not affect these variables. Greater cognitive load reduced rape myth acceptance and hostile sexism for those in the sexualized avatar condition, but it did not affect self-objectification. We discuss these results with respect to the LC4MP and suggest that the processing of stereotype-inconsistent information might be the underlying cause of these unexpected findings. These results provide tentative evidence that cognitively demanding video game environments may prompt players to focus on stereotype-inconsistent, rather than stereotype-consistent, social information.
KeywordsVideo games Sex role stereotypes Media effects Avatars LC4MP Sexualization
Compliance with Ethical Standards
There were no sources of funding or conflicts of interest to report.
The research involved human participants and included an informed consent that was approved by Indiana University’s Institutional Review Board.
- Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice: 25th anniversary edition. Reading: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co..Google Scholar
- Bethesda Game Studios. (2012). Skyrim creation kit [computer software]. Rockville: Bethesda Softworks, LLC.Google Scholar
- Daviault, C., & Schott, G. (2013). Looking beyond representation: Situating the significance of gender portrayal within game play. In C. C. Carter, L. Steiner, & L. McLaughlin (Eds.), The Routledge companion to media and gender (pp. 440–449). Didcot: Milton Park.Google Scholar
- Entertainment Software Association. (2017). 2017 essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Retrieved from https://www.theesa.com/article/2017-essential-facts-computer-video-game-industry/.
- Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory: Towards understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fredrickson, B. L., Roberts, T., Noll, S. M., Quinn, D. M., & Twenge, J. M. (1998). That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self-objectification, restrained eating, and math performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 269–284. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1689.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1997). Hostile and benevolent sexism: Measuring ambivalent sexist attitudes toward women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 119–135. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00104.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Grodal, T. (2000). Video games and the pleasures of control. In D. Zillmann & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Media entertainment (pp. 197–213). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
- Hamilton, D. L., & Sherman, J. W. (1994). Stereotypes. In R. S. Wyer, Jr., & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (Vol. 2, 2nd ed., pp. 1-68). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Hartmann, T. (2011). Users’ experiential and rational processing of virtual violence. In S. Malliet & K. Poels (Eds.), Vice city virtue: Moral issues in digital game play (pp. 135–150). Leuven: Acco.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2018). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Hickman, S. E., & Muehlenhard, C. L. (1997). College women’s fears and precautionary behaviors relating to acquaintance rape and stranger rape. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 527–547. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00129.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lang, A. (2000). The limited capacity model of mediated message processing. Journal of Communication, 50, 46–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2000.tb02833.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lang, A. (2009). The limited capacity model of motivated mediated message processing. In R. L. Nabi & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), The sage handbook of media processes and effects (pp. 193–204). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Lin, J. H. (2013). Do video games exert stronger effects on aggression than film? The role of media interactivity and identification on the association of violent content and aggressive outcomes. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 535–543. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lonsway, K. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1994). Rape myths: In review. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 133–164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1994.tb00448.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Matthews, N. L. (2011). Skill gap: Quantifying violent content in video game play between variably skilled users [Master’s thesis]. Indiana University. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2smC7q1.
- Miller, D. T., & Turnbull, W. (1986). Expectancies and interpersonal processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 37, 233–256. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ps.37.020186.001313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Moskowitz, G. B. (2005). Social cognition: Understanding self and others. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A meditational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 623–636. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1998.tb00181.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Pendry, L. F., & Macrae, C. N. (1999). Cognitive load and person memory: The role of perceived group variability. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 925–942. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199911)29:7<925::AID-EJSP973>3.0.CO;2-O.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Posner, M. I., & Snyder, C. R. R. (1975). Facilitation and inhibition in the processing of signals. In P. M. A. Rabbitt & S. Dornic (Eds.), Attention and performance V (pp. 669–682). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Potter, R. F., & Bolls, P. D. (2012). Psychophysiological measurement and meaning: Cognitive and emotional processing of media. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Pratto, F., Cidam, A., Stewart, A., Zeineddine, F., Aranda, M., Aiello, A., ... Henkel, K. (2012). Social dominance in context and in individuals: Contextual moderation of robust effects of social dominance orientation in 15 languages and 20 countries. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 587–599. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550612473663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Roberts, T., & Gettman, J. Y. (2004). Mere exposure: Gender differences in the negative effects of priming a state of self-objectification. Sex Roles, 51, 17–27. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:SERS.0000032306.20462.22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rudman, L. A., Glick, P., & Phelan, J. E. (2008). From the laboratory to the bench: Gender stereotyping research in the courtroom. In E. Borgida & S. T. Fiske (Eds.), Beyond common sense: Psychological science in the courtroom (pp. 83–102). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Sidanius, J., & Pratto, F. (2001). Social dominance: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar