Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Parenting Tips: Swimsuit Experiment

By Deborah Pace Rowley

One of the most interesting studies that is cited in the book Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax is the Swimsuit Experiment. It went like this. Girls and boys were put in two groups. One group wore bulky sweats and jeans. The other group wore swimsuits. For the girls, this meant wearing modest one-piece suits, not even bikinis. The two groups were then taken one at a time into a windowless room where they took a math test. No one else was in the room but the person taking the test and no one was watching. All the girls had comparable math ability but the girls wearing the swimsuit did significantly worse on the math test than the girls wearing the sweaters. Why? 

The researchers concluded that this result was caused by “self-objectification.” The girls in swim suits were distracted by their bodies. Each girl was essentially preoccupied with rating and evaluating her own body even though no one else was there to see or judge her. “It is a good bet that this effect would have been even greater if the young women were in a classroom with young men.” 

The book concludes, “If your daughter goes to school in a midriff top or a short skirt, she’s putting herself in a situation similar to the swimsuit condition in Fredrickson’s study. At some level, she is gong to be thinking about, analyzing and judging her own body when she ought to be thinking about geometry or Spanish grammar... Parents have to be willing to assert their authority. Parents have to be willing to overrule their daughter’s decision regarding what she is wearing to school.” (pg 30)

I thought this was another great argument in our arsenal of reasons why our daughters need to be modest. And it was one that I hadn’t even considered before. Ask your daughters to give this experiment a try. Have her wear a swimsuit as she completes her homework at home. Then have her wear some sweat pants and a t-shirt. Did she notice a difference in her ability to concentrate and focus?  Talk about the study and discuss the effects this may have on her together. 

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