Sexy Women In Ads Make Men Less Generous With Their Wallets

Sexy Ads Make Men Less Generous
Men hold their wallets tighter when they see an advertisement with sexy women. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

An image with cleavage or a sexual cross-legged pose may distract a man so much it stops him from being generous with his money. Researchers teamed up from the National University of Singapore and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to reveal how not to use sexy women in advertisements and published their findings in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Seeing a sexualized woman in an ad does something strangely adverse to window-shopping men: It makes them less charitable. When researchers studied how certain images affected 18- to 24-year-old participants’ purchasing practices, they found similarities between how images of sexy women versus landscapes made them feel and how they used their money. If a charity is trying to get their benefactors to open their wallets up, they should probably hide any arousing or provocative photos of women.   

"Images of sexy women are ubiquitous in modern society and heavily used in advertising. Our primary focus is to show how exposure to pictures of sexy women could temporarily decrease the male consumer's sense of psychological connectedness with others," the study’s co-authors Xiuping Li, a researcher from the National University of Singapore and Meng Zhang, a researcher from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote in their study.

When men saw images of sexy women, they disassociated with themselves and others, making them less likely to rate a product put in front of them favorably. Those same men were also less charitable and reluctant to give $10 to a peer despite their gender. Their results go beyond that and reveal men were even less likely to support wildlife by purchasing a t-shirt that promoted the protection of endangered species. The connection between erotic images and a man’s money is obscure, but if we look beyond that and see them becoming stressfully distracted when seeing a sexy woman in an ad, the link starts to make more sense.

Men who viewed images of the sexy women became introspective and focused more on how they felt and less on their social roles of them becoming a smart and engaged team player who donates to good causes. Spectatoring, or stepping outside of your body and judging your own actions, is more common among men than women, which makes them more self-conscience, more self-focused, and less unselfish with their money.

"Important implications can be drawn from our findings,” the authors concluded. “For example, charities that appeal for donations and brands selling environmentally friendly products might want to reconsider placing advertisements in media that are rich in visual sexual cues (such as popular men's magazines or late-night TV shows) since these strategies may backfire."

Source: Li X and Zhang M. The Effects of Heightened Physiological Needs on Perception of Psychological Connectedness. Journal of Consumer Research. 2014.

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