Applying evolutionary psychology in understanding the representation of women in advertisements



One of the most ubiquitous creative copy decisions in advertising is to use young attractive women in decorative roles. Contrary to the mantra chanted by some staunch feminists, advertisers are not involved in a patriarchal white-male-dominated conspiracy to derogate, exploit, subjugate, and dominate women. Advertisers are concerned with providing messages that are maximally effective to their relevant target audience. Accordingly, they are well aware that in certain situations the use of decorative female models will appeal to a particular group of their constituency. Using evolutionary psychology as the explicative framework, it is argued that the greater use of young and attractive women in decorative roles in advertising is steeped in the differential mating strategies of the two sexes. An analysis of several content-analytic studies demonstrates that the more frequent use of women as young and attractive decorative models is longitudinally stable and culturally invariant further attesting to the Darwinian roots of this phenomenon. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.