Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Driven to Distraction

Sexy News Babes
Drive Male Viewers
to Distraction

Okay, I wrote the above to grab the attention of those all-important bots that surf the net and end up driving people this direction.  But apparently it's true, at least according to this news story about research published in Communication Research (a fine journal because, if for no other reason, I've never appeared in it).  An experiment used two primary conditions: one in which a broadcast female news reader wore a tight jacket and skirt that, and I'm not making this up, "accented her waist-to-hip ratio."  In the alternate version, the same woman wore "a shapeless and loose-fitting" jacket and skirt.  In the previous, lipstick and a necklace, in the latter, neither of them.

According to the story (I've not read the journal article):
The researchers found the men recalled “significantly more information watching the unsexualized anchor deliver news than her sexualized version.” For women, the opposite was true, but the effect was far less pronounced.
And yet again, research I wish I had done.

We've all heard about news babes, which demeans hard-working women struggling to make it in journalism, but there's a significant grain of truth to it as well.  You don't see a lot of ugly women -- or men -- reading the news.  But apparently this gets in the way of learning, which isn't surprising.  We've known since research in the 1950s that humor or other factors can get in the way of learning.  We can only process so much.  There was even the infamous Reagan case in which his PR folks didn't care what the TV reporters said, as long as their visuals got on the screen. 

Attractiveness does have positives: it makes a person seem more believable and may even aid in persuasion, or so suggests persuasion models such as the Elaboration Likelihood Model

So our takeaway?  The story says it best:  "The study provides evidence for a basic theory of evolutionary psychology: When it comes to processing information, visual tends to trump verbal."

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