Thursday, 12 December 2019

Women Wearing Swimsuits and Performing in Math

Fredrickson et al. (1998) tested the hypothesis that self-objectification diminishes math performance (n = 82 undergraduate students at the University of Michigan, 42 women and 40 men). Students completed the Self-Objectification Questionnaire, their tendency to body shame was measured, as well as their feelings associated with trying on swimwear; they were given a challenging math test, as well as sweets.

Female participants were randomly assigned to two experimental conditions: trying on a one-piece swimsuit or a V-neck jumper, male participants either wore a swim trunk or a crew neck jumper. In all cases, they did so alone in a dressing rom where they were asked to look at themselves in the full-length mirror and afterwards complete all questionnaires mentioned before. Then, they were given sweets and told to eat as much as they wanted and fill out another questionnaire.

Results show that only in the case of women trying on a swimsuit (i.e. manipulating the state of self-objectification) produced more body shame than trying on a jumper. Self-objectification, again, led to body shame in women. And most interestingly, women performed worse on the math test when wearing a swimsuit than when wearing a jumper (Fredrickson et al., 1998).
In 2004, Hebl, King and Lin replicated the study with 400 undergraduate students (with a focus on gender and ethnicity) and supported the findings that "sellf-objectification serves as a mechanism through which the experience of wearing a swimsuit affected psychological and behavioral outcomes", that women had lower self-esteem and body image than men. However, they added: "All individuals can be vulnerable to the consequences of self-objectification."

- Fredrickson, B. L., Noll, S. M., Roberts, T.-A., 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(1), 269-284.
- Hebl, M., King, E. B. & Lin, J. (2004). The Swimsuit Becomes Us All: Ethnicity, Gender and Vulnerability to Self-Objetcification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(10), link
- images of Alain Delon and Romy Schneider (La Piscine, 1969) via and via and via


  1. Love this type of postings!