The science behind sexy selfies, revealed in the new study

(Credit: Kim Kardashian, Instagram)

Selfies. Whether you love them or hate them, they are constantly flooding our social media feeds.

For women it is often about being seen as sexy or glamorous. But why?

Well, researchers have discovered. And the reason is not what you think.

University of New South Wales researcher Khandis Blake says the next time you see a woman adjusting her bikini provocative with her phone at the ready, don’t think of her as a blank or a victim.

“Think of her as a strategic player in a complex social and evolutionary game,” says Dr. Blake said.

The study revealed, women have the tendency to sexualize themselves in an environment with higher economic inequality, instead of where they could be oppressed because of their gender.

The analysis of tens of thousands of social media posts about 113 countries, they were photos that people had taken selfies and then noticed that they labeled sexy, hot or something like that.

“We then looked at where in the world these things happened the most,” Dr. Blake explains.

“The number one way that psychologists usually look at women’s preoccupation with their appearance is that it is happening because of patriarchal pressure that women live in a society that value their appearance more than their other qualities.



“The argument is usually that when you sexualization, you can see helplessness.

“What we found instead that women are more likely to invest time and effort in posting sexy selfies online in places where economic inequality is rising, and not in places where men have more social power and inequality between men and women is rife.”

The researchers say that the findings are consistent across different geographical locations, even after taking into account and controlled for other factors that may influence patterns, such as the size of the population, the human development and the internet.

They say that the income inequality increases competitiveness and status anxiety among the people, at all levels of the social hierarchy, which makes them sensitive to where they sit on the social ladder and they want to do better than others.

“That income inequality is a major predictor of sexy selfies suggests that sexy selfies are a mark of social climbing among the women who tracks economic stimuli in the environment,” Dr Blake says.

“Rightly or wrongly, in the current environment, sexy, it can generate great returns, economic, social, and personal.”

The researchers then found the exact same pattern in the real world of spending in other appearance-enhancing areas.

“What we have found in more than 1000 different economic areas in the U.S. when we look at the women of the expenditure in beauty salons and clothing shops is that the income inequality is also forecasting this type of expenditure,” Dr Blake says.

The researchers say that the findings make sense from an evolutionary point of view.

“In evolutionary terms, these forms of behavior are completely rational, even adaptive,” he says.

“The basic idea is that the way in which people compete for mates, and the things that they do to be at the top of the hierarchy are very important. This is where this research fits in — it’s all about how women compete and why they compete.

“So, when a young woman adjusts her bikini provocative with her phone at the ready, don’t think of her as a blank or as a victim. Think of her as a strategic player in a complex social and evolutionary game. She is to maximize her lot in life, just like everyone else.”

This story was previously published in the

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