Current Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 543–551 | Cite as

Mean Girls: Provocative Clothing Leads to Intra-Sexual Competition between Females

  • Eleanor Keys
  • Manpal Singh BhogalEmail author


This study aimed to investigate indirect aggression between females from an evolutionary perspective, considering indirect aggression as a mechanism of intra-sexual competition. Previous research suggests that females who are dressed provocatively, or appear ‘sexually available’, are more likely to be victims of indirect aggression from other females. Investigating this notion via an empirical measure and a word-selection task, this study involved a female confederate posing as a participant, who was dressed provocatively in one condition and conservatively in the other. Sixty-five females completed an intra-sexual competition scale and a word selection task in which they were able to select complimentary or derogatory phrases to describe the confederate. Making derogative comments is a common form of indirect aggression; therefore, those who selected derogatory phrases could be considered to be exhibiting indirect aggression. Consistent with our hypotheses, females in the provocative condition obtained significantly higher intra-sexual competition scores, selected more derogatory words, and less complimentary words than those in the conservative condition, indicating that females dressed provocatively are indirectly aggressed against to a greater extent than those that are not. This paper adds further support to the notion that indirect aggression is used by females as a method of intra-sexual competition, particularly towards provocatively dressed females.


Intra-female competition Sexual selection Provocative clothing Word selection 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This research involved collecting data from human participants. Informed consent was taken from all participants who took part in this study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 3860 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Psychology DepartmentCoventry UniversityCoventryUK

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