Glick lecture: “Sex DOESN’T sell

Katie Buchanan

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, Peter Glick presented his most current research in a speech entitled, “Sex and Work: How Does Provocative Dress Affect Perceptions of Professional Women?” The Lawrence Psychology Student Association sponsored Glick’s talk.
His research was based on his 2005 study, where he looked at the effect women’s dress style had on whether or not they were hired. In the study, Glick presented participants with background information on the woman, after which they watched a videotaped interview of her.
Participants then read background information on the woman, which included her social status and her apparel. Four situations were offered to participants: the woman was lower class and wore “unsexy” apparel, she was upper class and wore “unsexy” apparel, she was lower-class and wore “sexy” apparel or she was upper-class and wore “sexy” apparel. Glick found that when the woman was upper class and dressed provocatively, participants were less emotionally positive towards her and rated her as less competent.
Glick’s current research was a follow-up to his 2005 study. He hypothesized, “If sexiness distracts men, then they should be more likely to engage in ‘peripheral’ and not ‘central’ processing.” That is, if a man were “peripherally” listening to a woman, he would not take in and fully understand exactly what she is saying.
Glick tested this hypothesis by asking adult male and female YMCA patrons to view a videotape of a sales pitch for a bogus new medicine for allergies by “a young professional,” and asked them to a) rate the young professionals on how persuasive they were, b) take a recall test to see how much of the pitch they remembered, c) recommend whether or not they should be hired, and d) rate whether or not doctors would be interested in seeing the presentation.
Participants were shown one of four versions of the sales pitch: either they saw a video of a woman wearing a low-cut top and giving a pitch for an ineffective drug, a low-cut top and an effective drug, a modestly-cut top and ineffective drug, or a modestly-cut top and an effective drug.
Interestingly, Glick found that both men and women were equally undistracted by the low-cut top and recalled equal amounts of information about the pitch. When asked whether or not the pitch was persuasive, men as well as women were persuaded by a pitch for the more effective drug, rather than being persuaded by the low-cut top.
The significant difference occurred when participants were asked if they would hire her for the sales job. Women judged strictly on how effective and ineffective the drug was, hiring the woman only if the drug was effective.
Men, on the other hand, chose the woman dressed provocatively and selling an ineffective drug, or selling an effective drug and dressed in ordinary clothing. Similarly, when men were asked whether a doctor would be interested in seeing her presentation, men said doctors would be interested in the ineffective drug with the sexy outfit or the effective drug without the sexy outfit.
What do these results mean? Glick observed, “Men incorrectly believe the distraction hypothesis. Sex distracts, which is good for selling weak products.” Glick also noticed a “paternalistic attitude toward women who ‘have to use sex’ to sell a weak product; and hostility toward women who use sex to manipulate when manipulation is not necessary.” What is ironic about this is that men, ***not*** women, falsely believe this distraction hypothesis. Even though both men and women weren’t distracted in their evaluation by how “sexy” the woman was dressed, men still believe that men in general will be distracted.
According to Glick, this means that “using sex may not sell, but the belief that it does can have consequences for how they treat women. Using sex appeal may be a trap for female professionals.