Study: Peers view young women who post sexy social media pics as less competent

(Credit: Flickr / Lotus Carroll)

(Credit: Flickr / Lotus Carroll)

BOULDER, Colo. — A psychiatrist who now works at the University of Colorado just released a study that suggests those sexy selfies aren’t doing young women any favors among their peers.

The work was published in the “Psychology of Popular Media Culture” journal by Elizabeth Daniels, a former Oregon State psychologist who is currently an assistant professor at CU’s campus in Colorado Springs.

In the study, Daniels asked 58 girls aged 13 to 18 and 60 young adult women aged 17 to 25 to answer a series of questions about a fictitious 20-year-old woman’s Facebook profile. Half the participants got a profile with a “sexy” photo, and the other half got the same profile of the same woman, but with a different, more conservative photo.

In the sexy photo, the subject of the photo was wearing a low-cut red dress with a slit up one leg to mid-thigh and a visible garter belt. In the more conservative photo, the woman was wearing jeans, a short-sleeved shirt and a scarf draped around her neck, covering her chest.

Study participants gave the more conservative profile significantly higher marks in every category, which included in physical attractiveness, social attractiveness and competence.

That being said, Daniels went on to suggest the findings of this study aren’t cut and dry, saying young women are essentially in a “no-win” situation when it comes to their Facebook photos.

Those who post sexy photos may risk negative reactions from their peers, Daniels suggested, but those who post more wholesome photos may lose out on social rewards, including attention from the opposite sex.

“Social media is where the youth are,” Daniels said. “We need to understand what they’re doing online and how that affects their self-concept and their self-esteem.”