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August 2015 Policy Study, Number 15-7


The Impact of Self-Objectification on Political Efficacy: Does Self-Image Affect Feelings of Political Adequacy





The phenomenon of self-objectification develops from the internalization of the objectification of the human body by the individual, occurring most prevalently among women, and results in a host of negative psychological effects (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Among these effects are increased body surveillance, disrupting one’s ability to achieve peak states of motivation, and body shame. It is possible, then, that feelings of inadequacy, as a result, affect other realms of life, including an individual’s orientation toward the political world.  To test this proposition, I conducted an original online survey (N=948) to determine if higher rates of self-objectification, utilizing measures for body surveillance and body shame, negatively affect internal and external political efficacy.  Importantly, I control for a number of demographic measures, including gender, to test whether significant subgroup differences exist.   Results suggest increased body surveillance and body shame negatively and significantly affect internal political efficacy among both men and women, but the negative effects of self-objectification on the internal political efficacy rates of women are greater than those of men. Further, in analyzing the impact of self-objectification on external political efficacy, body shame negatively affects the external political efficacy of women but not men.  I conclude by discussing how the effects of self-objectification are not isolated to feelings of oneself, but may extend to other aspects of daily life, including the political and economic.




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