Are your husbands reluctant to do house work? Well, then you might want to shut your television sets forever, for researchers at the University of New Hampshire have shown that men, in particular, are influenced by TV commercials that more often portray them in a career environment than doing domestic duties.
Valerie Hooper, a graduating senior in sociology who studied how men and women are portrayed in television commercials and how they respond to them, presented the results recently at UNH's Undergraduate Research Conference.
Her research has shown that men are portrayed as the main character of commercials more than women.
The majority of commercials featuring women, focus on selling home products, such as food, cleaners, personal care items and furniture.
Men are most likely to be engaged in work behaviour in commercials and women are least likely to be portrayed working outside the home in commercials.
Only 2.1 percent of commercials featuring men showed them performing domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or caring for children.
Hooper found that men who viewed commercials with a male main character in a traditional, stereotypical male role were more likely to favour life goals related to a career.
She also found that men who viewed commercials with a male main character in a non-traditional, no stereotypical male role were more likely to favour life goals related to the domestic sphere.
"Because television advertisements transmit cultural ideas about gender, they help to socially construct gender. Commercials may affect the way that people think about their own gender, and contribute to the ongoing social stratification of genders in our society," Hooper said.
Hooper's study had two segments. First, she conducted an analysis of the content of a week's worth of commercials broadcast on four channels during primetime viewing (8 to 10 p.m.)
She then assessed the commercials - 1,538 in total - based on the characters portrayed in them, paying special attention to gender, behaviour of the main characters, profession, setting, and the type of product being promoted.
Her content analysis showed that while men and women usually are equally cast in the commercials, men are more likely to represent non-domestic products, to be depicted working, and to be in a work or other 'non-home' setting.
Women are more likely to represent domestic products such as cleaners and foods, to be performing domestic tasks, and to be in a home setting.
Hooper then sought to determine how gender is portrayed in television commercials and how that affects the actions and ambitions of men and women.
In the second segment of the study, Hooper showed commercials with traditional and non-traditional gender stereotypes to groups of UNH students.
After viewing the commercials, the students were asked to discuss their life goals for the next five to 10 years.
She found that men who watched commercials portraying men in traditional roles were more likely to emphasize occupational goals over domestic goals.
Those who viewed commercials with men in non-traditional male roles were more likely to emphasize domestic goals.
She found that women who viewed commercials of women in traditional roles were more likely to have traditional life goals, and vice versa for those who viewed commercials with women in non-traditional roles.
However, the results for women were not significant.
"The subtle implications of gender roles in commercials can influence self concept and future goals, particularly in the case of males. Although effects in the study were presumably temporary, one must keep in mind that individuals watch millions of commercials over the course of their lifetime," Hooper said.