American Journal of Applied Psychology

Submit a Manuscript

Publishing with us to make your research visible to the widest possible audience.

Propose a Special Issue

Building a community of authors and readers to discuss the latest research and develop new ideas.

Research Article |

Exposure to Income Inequality on Social Media and Female Self-Objectification: The Mediating Role of Perceived Competitiveness

Female self-objectification refers to a phenomenon that women tend to overemphasize the importance of physical appearance in their self-worth. An increasing body of research suggests that engaging in appearance-relevant activities on social media platforms will contribute to the self-objectification of women (e.g., viewing selfies). From an evolutionary psychology perspective, attractive appearance will help women get more advantages in social competition. And recent research has demonstrated income inequality has a close connection with perceived competition and perceived competition had a close connection with female-self-objectification, thus indicating the possible connection between income inequality and female self-objectification. However, so far, little research has been conducted to examine the relationship between income inequality and female self-objectification. Given that, by using an online questionnaire survey, with 120 young female adults as participants, the present research firstly examined the relationship between income inequality exposure on social media and female self-objectification, and the possibly mediating role of perceived competition. The results showed that income inequality exposure on social media did not have a direct prediction on female self-objectification, but income inequality exposure has an indirect effect on female self-objectification via the mediating role of perceived competition. That is, income inequality exposure was significantly and positively related to perceived competition, β = 0.30, p < 0.001, and perceived competition was further related to female self-objectification, β = 0.49, p < 0.001. The present research firstly examined the relationship between income inequality exposure and female self-objectification, which enrich the understanding of how income inequality perception on the psychological level affected the self-concept of women.

Income Inequality, Social Media, Feminism, Self-Objectification, Media Psychology

APA Style

Yang, F., Zhang, H., Lin, Z., Zhang, T., Liu, X. (2023). Exposure to Income Inequality on Social Media and Female Self-Objectification: The Mediating Role of Perceived Competitiveness. American Journal of Applied Psychology, 12(6), 136-143.

ACS Style

Yang, F.; Zhang, H.; Lin, Z.; Zhang, T.; Liu, X. Exposure to Income Inequality on Social Media and Female Self-Objectification: The Mediating Role of Perceived Competitiveness. Am. J. Appl. Psychol. 2023, 12(6), 136-143. doi: 10.11648/j.ajap.20231206.11

AMA Style

Yang F, Zhang H, Lin Z, Zhang T, Liu X. Exposure to Income Inequality on Social Media and Female Self-Objectification: The Mediating Role of Perceived Competitiveness. Am J Appl Psychol. 2023;12(6):136-143. doi: 10.11648/j.ajap.20231206.11

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.
2. Seekis, V., Bradley, G. L., & Duffy, A. L. (2020). Appearance-related social networking sites and body image in young women: Testing an objectification-social comparison model. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 44 (3), 377-392. doi: 10.1177/0361684320920826.
3. Prichard, I., McLachlan, A. C., Lavis, T., & Tiggemann, M. (2018). The impact of different forms of# fitspiration imagery on body image, mood, and self-objectification among young women. Sex Roles, 78, 789-798. doi: 10.1007/s11199-017-0830-3.
4. Wang, X., Chen, H., & Chen, Z. (2022). Women’s self-objectification under competition when they believe sex is power. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 51 (6), 2837-2854. doi: 10.1007/s10508-022-02335-2.
5. Wang, X., Chen, H., Chen, Z., & Yang, Y. (2021). Women’s intrasexual competition results in beautification. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 12 (5), 648-657. doi: 10.1177/1948550620933403.
6. Breines, J. G., Crocker, J., & Garcia, J. A. (2008). Self-objectification and well-being in women's daily lives. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (5), 583-598. doi: 10.1177/0146167207313727.
7. Koval, P., Holland, E., Zyphur, M. J., Stratemeyer, M., Knight, J. M., Bailen, N. H.,... & Haslam, N. (2019). How does it feel to be treated like an object? Direct and indirect effects of exposure to sexual objectification on women’s emotions in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116 (6), 885-898. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000161.
8. Moya-Garófano, A., & Moya, M. (2019). Focusing on one’s own appearance leads to body shame in women but not men: The mediating role of body surveillance and appearance-contingent self-worth. Body Image, 29, 58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2019.02.008.
9. Daniels, E. A., Zurbriggen, E. L., & Ward, L. M. (2020). Becoming an object: A review of self-objectification in girls. Body Image, 33, 278-299. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.016.
10. Tylka, T. L., Rodgers, R. F., Calogero, R. M., Thompson, J. K., & Harriger, J. A. (2023). Integrating social media variables as predictors, mediators, and moderators within body image frameworks: Potential mechanisms of action to consider in future research. Body Image, 44, 197-221. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2023.01.004.
11. Yang, H., Wang, J. J., Tng, G. Y., & Yang, S. (2020). Effects of social media and smartphone use on body esteem in female adolescents: Testing a cognitive and affective model. Children, 7 (9), article148. doi: 10.3390/children7090148.
12. Chang, L., Li, P., Loh, R. S. M., & Chua, T. H. H. (2019). A study of Singapore adolescent girls’ selfie practices, peer appearance comparisons, and body esteem on Instagram. Body Image, 29, 90-99. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2019.03.005.
13. Alvaredo, F., Chancel, L., Piketty, T., Saez, E., & Zucman, G. (2018). World Inequality Report 2018. Harvard University Press.
14. Willis, G. B., García-Sánchez, E., Sánchez-Rodríguez, Á., García-Castro, J. D., & Rodríguez-Bailón, R. (2022). The psychosocial effects of economic inequality depend on its perception. Nature Reviews Psychology, 1 (5), 301-309. doi: 10.1038/s44159-022-00044-0.
15. Pickett, K. E., & Wilkinson, R. G. (2015). Income inequality and health: A causal review. Social Science and Medicine, 128, 316–326. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.12.031.
16. Sánchez‐Rodríguez, Á., Willis, G. B., & Rodríguez‐Bailón, R. (2019). Economic and social distance: Perceived income inequality negatively predicts an interdependent self-construal. International Journal of Psychology, 54 (1), 117-125. doi: 10.1002/ijop.12437.
17. Kim, H., Huh, S., Choi, S., & Lee, Y. (2018). Perceptions of inequality and attitudes towards redistribution in four East Asian welfare states. International Journal of Social Welfare, 27 (1), 28-39. doi: 10.1111/ijsw.12266.
18. De Botton, A. (2005). Status anxiety. Nueva York: Vintage.
19. Cheng, L., et al. (2021). Beware of the ‘Bad Guys’: Economic Inequality, Perceived Competition, and Social Vigilance. International Review of Social Psychology, 34 (1): 1-12. doi: 10.5334/irsp.497.
20. Sánchez‐Rodríguez, Á., Willis, G. B., Jetten, J., & Rodríguez‐Bailón, R. (2019). Economic inequality enhances inferences that the normative climate is individualistic and competitive. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49(6), 1114-1127. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2557.
21. Melita, D., Willis, G. B., & Rodríguez-Bailón, R. (2021). Economic inequality increases status anxiety through perceived contextual competitiveness. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, article 637365. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.637365.
22. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7 (2), 117-140. doi: 10.1177/001872675400700202.
23. Durante, F., Tablante, C. B., & Fiske, S. T. (2017). Poor but warm, rich but cold (and competent): Social classes in the stereotype content model. Journal of Social Issues, 73 (1), 138-157. doi: 10.1111/josi.12208.
24. Arroyo, A., & Brunner, S. R. (2016). Negative body talk as an outcome of friends’ fitness posts on social networking sites: Body surveillance and social comparison as potential moderators. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 44 (3), 216-235. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2016.1192293.
25. Sommet, N., Elliot, A. J., Jamieson, J. P., & Butera, F. (2019). Income inequality, perceived competitiveness, and approach-avoidance motivation. Journal of personality, 87 (4), 767-784. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12432.
26. Murayama, K., & Elliot, A. J. (2012). The competition‐performance relation: A meta‐analytic review and test of the opposing processes model of competition and performance. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 1035-1070. doi: 10.1037/a0028324.
27. Noll, S. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). A mediational model linking self-objectification, body shame, and disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22 (4), 623-636. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1998.tb00181.x.
28. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
29. Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53 (1), 59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003.
30. Moreno-Bella, E., Willis, G. B., Quiroga-Garza, A., & Moya, M. (2023). Economic inequality shapes the agency–communion content of gender stereotypes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 26 (5), 1075-1098. doi: 10.1177/13684302221095338.