Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research

No 6/2018: Undressed for Success? The Effects of Half-Naked Women on Economic Behavior

Evelina Bonnier , Anna Dreber , Karin Hederos and Anna Sandberg
Additional contact information
Evelina Bonnier: Stockholm School of Economics
Anna Dreber: Stockholm School of Economics
Karin Hederos: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Anna Sandberg: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Images of half-naked women are in many societies ubiquitous in advertising and popular culture. Yet relatively little is known about the potential impacts of such images on economic decision making. In this paper, we examine how exposure to images of half-naked women affect risk taking, willingness to compete and math performance. We perform a lab experiment with a total of 648 participants of both genders, randomly exposing participants to advertising images including either women in bikini or underwear, fully dressed women, or no women. Exposure to images of half-naked women could potentially have effects on economic preferences and performance through channels such as arousal, cognitive load and stereotyping. Following a pre-registered pre-analysis plan, we find no treatment effects on any of the outcome measures for female participants. For male participants, we also find no effect on willingness to compete or math performance, but suggestive evidence that men take more risk after having been exposed to images of half-naked women compared to images including no women. We thus do not find any strong support for the hypothesis that exposure to images of half-naked women impact economic preferences, but given the suggestive evidence for risk taking future studies should explore this further.

Keywords: Experiment; Gender; Economic decision making; Risk preferences; willingness to compete; Advertising

42 pages, May 8, 2018

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