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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 Analysis

   

 

Respondents answered questions by selecting the response they felt most closely matched their personal feelings regarding each given question. In analyzing the results, the responses to all questions were converted to numeric variables, on a scale from one to four. Lower numeric values correspond to low levels of self-objectification and low levels of political efficacy, while numeric values closer to four are indicative of greater levels of self-objectification, as well as greater levels of political efficacy. In terms of the hypothesis for this research, if the hypothesis proves true, individuals with numeric values closer to four for measures of self-objectification will exhibit numeric values closer to one for measures of political efficacy, indicating an inverse relationship between the phenomena.

 

Placing the collected data into a correlation matrix provides a preliminary approach to understanding the results. Table 2 contains the responses to the eight self-objectification questions (compare_others, think_appearance, worry_clothes, worry_others, look_good, make_effort, knew_weight, not_size), as they correlate with the measures of internal and external political efficacy (COMPLEX, NOCARE).

 

The results shown within Table 2 display the relationship between each question measuring body surveillance and body shame, the two measures of self-objectification utilized in this research, as they correlate with the measures of internal and external political efficacy. Table 2 demonstrates that while the eight measures of self-objectification are generally negatively correlated with political efficacy, there are clear differences by the form of political efficacy measured. All eight measures are negatively and significantly correlated with internal political efficacy, but this is not the case for external political efficacy, where the relationship is significant for only two of the eight self-objectification measures, utilizing the measures of body surveillance and shame. Further, of the significant results for the relationship between the self-objectification and the external political efficacy measures, the relationship is relatively weak in comparison to the relationship between the self-objectification and internal political efficacy measures.

 

Table 2

 

 

Increased body surveillance has a slight, but insignificant, negative relationship with measures of external political efficacy. As shown in Table 2, there is a slight overall negative correlation between the external political efficacy variable and three out of four of the first four measures of self-objectification, which measure the surveillance aspect of the phenomenon, but none of these correlations are significant.

 

Conversely, increased body surveillance does have a significant negative relationship with measures of internal political efficacy. As indicated by the results presented in Table 2, there is a negative correlation between the internal political efficacy variable and all of the first four measures of self-objectification (p < .05), which measure the surveillance aspect of the phenomenon.

 

The components of body shame all show a negative relationship with measures of external political efficacy. In consideration of the data displayed in Table 2, there is a slight negative correlation between the external political efficacy variable and all of the last four measures of self-objectification, which measure the shame aspect of the phenomenon. However, only two of these correlations are significant (p < .05), indicating that the relationship is relatively weak.

 

At the same time, increased body shame does have a significant negative relationship with measures of internal political efficacy. In looking to the measures provided in Table 2, there is a negative correlation between the internal political efficacy variable and all of the last four measures of self-objectification, which measure the shame aspect of the phenomenon. Further, all of the correlations between measures of body shame and internal political efficacy are significant at the .01 level, indicating a very strong relationship between the two measures.

 

The responses to the self-objectification questions were next categorized into two groups—body surveillance and body shame—by calculating average scores for each of the participants for each category. Collapsing the eight measures into two groups allows for a general interpretation of the results and has been done in previous research (see McKinley and Hyde, 1996). The surveillance variable includes the average of the scores for “compare_others,” “think_appearance,” “worry_clothes,” and “worry_others.” The shame variable includes the average of the scores for “look_good,” “make_effort,” “knew_weight,” and “not_size.” In using the average scores for each of these categories, broader comparisons may be made utilizing the data. McKinley and Hyde (1996) also combine each set of four variables into the two specified groups indicated above. For this experiment, collapsing the eight variables into the two groups is also supported statistically. The Cronbach’s Alpha is 0.81 for the surveillance group and 0.74 for the shame group, indicating the four measures are internally consistent within each group, further justifying their categorization. 

 

Using the two group measures, Table 3 evaluates differences in self-objectification measures by gender. This analysis is important because it validates the background information regarding the frequency of the phenomenon of self-objectification by gender. As shown, the data in this research corresponds to previous research indicating the increased frequency of the phenomenon of self-objectification among females.

 

Table 3: Differences in Objectification Measures by Gender


Gender

Surveillance_Score

Shame_Score

Male

Mean

2.1783

1.8473

N

600

604

Std. Deviation

.53417

.56845

Female

Mean

2.3333

2.1023

N

324

325

Std. Deviation

.57320

.63047

Total

Mean

2.2327

1.9365

N

924

929

Std. Deviation

.55284

.60295

 

As shown in Table 3, female participants scored higher on measures of self-objectification than male participants (p < .01). The mean body surveillance score for males was 2.18, while the mean score for females was 2.33, a difference of .15. Further, the mean body shame score for males was 1.85, while the mean score for females was 2.10, a difference of .25. These results indicate that females more consciously monitor their experience and are significantly more likely to feel shame regarding their body’s appearance than their male counterparts. Understanding this difference in responses between male and female participants is important, because if self-objectification negatively affects political efficacy rates, it is more damaging for females than males based on these results, as females experience the phenomenon of self-objectification at higher rates than males.

 

The final analysis of the data utilizes correlations between the measures of self-objectification and political efficacy by gender. This data can be found in Table 4.

 

Table 4: Self-Objectification Correlations to Political Efficacy Measures by Gender


Gender

Internal Political Efficacy

External Political Efficacy

Male

Surveillance_Score

Pearson Correlation

-.151**

-.002

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.951

N

596

600

Shame_Score

Pearson Correlation

-.166**

-.058

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.152

N

601

604

Female

Surveillance_Score

Pearson Correlation

-.198**

-.054

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.334

N

324

324

Shame_Score

Pearson Correlation

-.244**

-.184**

Sig. (2-tailed)

.000

.001

N

325

325

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

 

In categorizing this data by gender, using Table 4, there is no correlation between the surveillance measure and the external political efficacy measure for males. Further, there is a slight negative correlation between the surveillance measure and the external political efficacy measure for females, but it is not significant. This indicates that increased surveillance does not have a significant impact on external political efficacy, for neither males nor females. The hypothesis that increased self-objectification, for the measure of body surveillance, negatively affects external political efficacy does not hold under further analysis.

 

In further analyzing the impact of the increased body surveillance by gender, as presented in Table 4, there is a significant negative correlation between the surveillance measure and the internal political efficacy measure for both males and females, but the effect is more substantial for females than males. The hypothesis that increased self-objectification, for the measure of body surveillance, negatively affects internal political efficacy holds true upon analysis of the findings of this study, and it affects females more greatly than males.

 

In using Table 4 to determine the impact of the measure of body shame by gender, there is a slight negative correlation between the shame measure and the external political efficacy measure for males, but it is not significant. Conversely, there is a strong, significant, negative correlation between the shame measure and the external political efficacy measure for females. This indicates that increased body shame does have a significant negative impact on external political efficacy for females but not for males. The hypothesis that increased self-objectification, for the measure of body shame, negatively affects external political efficacy holds partially true under further analysis, as it is true for females but not males.

 

There is also a significant negative correlation between the shame measure and the internal political efficacy measure for both males and females. The hypothesis that increased self-objectification, for the measure of body shame, negatively affects internal political efficacy holds true upon further analysis, and it affects females more significantly than males.

 

In reviewing the findings of this study, the hypothesis that self-objectification negatively affects political efficacy holds true for some, but not all measures. There are four primary areas of comparison: the impact of increased body surveillance on external political efficacy, the impact of increased body surveillance on internal political efficacy, the impact of increased body shame on external political efficacy, and the impact of increased body shame on internal political efficacy. Of these areas of comparison, the hypothesis holds true for the negative impact of both aspects of self-objectification on feelings of internal political efficacy. Conversely, the hypothesis is rejected for the effect of increased body surveillance on external political efficacy, while it holds partially true for the implications of increased body shame on feelings of external political efficacy, as it is true for females but not males.

 

   

 

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