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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


Data and Methodology





This study surveyed 948 American participants. They were recruited utilizing Amazon Mechanical Turk and compensated $.25 for their participation in the study. The demographics of the sample population may be found in the Appendix. As shown in the Appendix, 65.1 percent of respondents were male, while 34.7 percent were female. The greatest proportion of people surveyed were 25 to 34 years of age, with 77.3 percent of respondents falling within the age range of 18 to 34. Education level varied significantly, with 36.2 percent of respondents’ highest level of education concluding with high school, while 13.8 percent held associate’s degrees, 38.4 percent held bachelor’s degrees, 9.5 percent held master’s or professional degrees, and 1.8 percent reported having their doctorate. The majority of respondents, at 63.7 percent, had an annual income of less than $40,000 per year, with 27.7 percent reporting an annual income of $40,000 to $80,000. Only 8.3 percent of the sample reported an annual income greater than $80,000. See chart labeled “Participant Demographics” in the Appendix for more information regarding the demographics of the sample population.




Participants completed surveys to analyze self-objectification and political efficacy levels. These surveys included demographic information, a series of questions adapted from the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale, and questions determining internal and external political efficacy, taken from the American National Election Study surveys of political efficacy. The survey included 20 total questions: eight questions recorded demographic information, two questions recorded governmental involvement and correspondence with elected officials, four questions measured body surveillance, four questions measured body shame, and the final three questions measured political efficacy. The time necessary to complete the survey was roughly five minutes. A copy of the materials presented to participants may be found in the Appendix.


Independent Variable: Self-Objectification, as Determined by the OBCS.[1]


Self-objectification was determined utilizing a modified version of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (OBCS) (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The OBCS measures three aspects of self-objectification: surveillance, body shame, and control.


Body Surveillance.The surveillance aspect of the OBCS is associated with seeing oneself as perceived externally by others. This surveillance is utilized by the individual in an effort to adhere to societal norms and reduce negative judgments from others. However, internalized surveillance has the ability to disrupt an individual from achieving peak motivational states of flow (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Increased body surveillance can have negative implications, as it may reduce an individual’s ability to focus on others aspects of daily life beyond appearance. Without the ability to reach peak motivational states, it is possible that individual political efficacy could be negatively affected, as the individual has less ability to focus on the bigger picture beyond personal appearance.


This study measured surveillance using four questions adapted from the OBCS. These questions focused on the frequency of comparing oneself to others, thought regarding appearance, worry about how one looks in their clothing, and concern regarding others’ perception of one’s appearance. All four of these questions are tested measures of body surveillance, which is a component of self-objectification (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). The exact questions utilized may be found in the Appendix.


In the dataset analyzing these aspects of self-objectification, these questions are coded as “compare_others,” “think_appearance,” “worry_clothes,” and “worry_others.”


Body Shame.Body shame is associated with the concept of comparing oneself to others. Body shame occurs when individuals feel as though they do not measure up to cultural standards of appearance, which are often determined by the media or other forms of popular culture. Body shame, when internalized, can translate into negative feelings of self-worth. These negative feelings regarding oneself, then, could affect political efficacy, as it alters an individual’s perceived adequacy within society. If an individual feels inadequate in general, this may affect personal perceptions of adequacy in all aspects of life.


For this study, body shame was determined utilizing four questions adapted from the OBCS. These questions tested for the amount of shame an individual feels if they have not made an effort to look their best, if they do not look as good as they believe they could, if others knew their weight, and if they were not the size they believe they should be. These measures were tested and validated in the creation of the OBCS (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). Again, the exact questions utilized for this measure may be found in the Appendix.


In the dataset analyzing these aspects of self-objectification, these questions are coded as “look_good,” “make_effort,” “knew_weight,” and “not_size.”


Dependent Variables: Internal and External Political Efficacy, as Determined by the NES.


The National Election Study (NES) was developed by the Center for Political Studies (CPS) in 1952. The original CPS political efficacy measures were not designed to differentiate between internal and external political efficacy, as those concepts were not fully conceptualized until the 1970s (Niemi, Craig, & Mattei, 1991). As such, the original survey questions from the CPS have been categorized to better reflect the data the questions aim to measure.


Internal Political Efficacy.The original NES survey question, “Sometimes politics and government seem so complicated that a person like me can't really understand what's going on,” also referred to as “COMPLEX,” has been established as a valid measure of internal political efficacy (Craig, Niemi, & Silver, 1990). As such, this study utilizes this question to measure the internal political efficacy of respondents.


External Political Efficacy.The original CPS survey question, “Public officials don't care much what people like me think,” also referred to as “NOCARE,” is a valid measure of external political efficacy (Niemi, Craig, & Mattei, 1991). For this reason, this study utilizes this question to measure the external political efficacy of respondents.

[1] Control Beliefs
The final variable measured by the OBCS is control beliefs. Control beliefs are associated with one’s belief that they have the ability to control their appearance. A feeling of being in control does have psychological benefits; however, higher control beliefs may also be associated with negative behaviors, such as restricted eating (McKinley & Hyde, 1996). Because control beliefs are most associated with the ability to manipulate appearance and do not necessarily serve as an indicator of one’s internalized feelings of objectification, they were excluded from this study, as one cannot utilize this measure to draw an accurate interpretation as to its effect on internal and external political efficacy levels.




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