Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Finkelstein, Lisa M.||Kaplan, Martin F.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Sexism in mass media--United States; Women in mass media--United States; Aquaintance rape victims--Public opinion--United States; Trials (Rape)--United States


The present study assessed whether exposure to television advertisements depicting women as sex objects (i.e., sexist advertisements) would activate the female sex-object stereotype among men (particularly those high in sexism), thereby heightening attitudes accepting of female sexual objectification. It was predicted that this would lead men to (a) adopt a hypothesis-confirming vs. diagnostic search strategy when processing information from an acquaintance rape trial, (b) make an internal attribution toward the complainant and an external one toward the defendant, (c) hold the complainant more responsible and the defendant less responsible for the incident, and (d) assess the complainant's character more negatively. This would result in defendants receiving fewer guilty verdicts and lighter sentences. One hundred and ninety-eight male undergraduate students participated in a two-session experiment. In the first session, respondents were pretested for level of sexism. In the second session, they were exposed to either sexist advertisements, neutral advertisements, or erotic movie clips, asked to complete a questionnaire measuring attitudes toward female objectification, and then read transcripts from an acquaintance rape trial, after which they made judgments toward both the female complainant and male defendant. Results of both multivariate and LISREL analyses revealed neither significant effects for video condition nor a significant condition by sexism interaction. The only exception was for those high vs. low in benevolent sexism in that exposure to sexist advertisements caused both groups to respond in a more classically sexist manner for verdict confidence and level of complainant responsibility. Significant relationships in the overall structural model suggested that when an external attribution was made toward the defendant and an internal one was made toward the complainant, the complainant was held more responsible for the incident, resulting in lighter sentences being rendered toward the defendant. When broken out by sexism, the high sexist model was similar to the overall model. However, the low sexist model differed in that the type of attributions made toward the defendant, not complainant responsibility, impacted severity of punishment. Both theoretical and applied implications of these results are discussed, along with recommendations for future research.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [112]-119)


vii, 187 pages




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