Exploring the Dimensionality of the Affective Space Elicited by Gendered Toy Commercials

Conference: The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film (EuroMedia2022)
Title: Exploring the Dimensionality of the Affective Space Elicited by Gendered Toy Commercials
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies, Gender and Communication
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Luca Marinelli, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom
Charalampos Saitis, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom


As evidenced by a large body of literature, the gender-stereotyped nature of toy adverts has been widely scrutinised. However, little work has been done in examining the affective impact of these commercials on the audience. It has been proven that repeated exposure to gender-stereotyped messages has the capacity to influence behaviours, beliefs and attitudes. In particular, media can influence emotion socialization, and gender differences in emotion expression might emerge. In this study, we investigated whether commercials elicit emotions at different intensities with respect to the gender of their target audience. Furthermore, we evaluated whether such emotions follow distinct underlying latent structures. A total of 1081 ratings of 10 unipolar aesthetic emotion scales were collected for 135 commercials (45 for each masculine, feminine, and mixed target audience) from 80 UK nationals (35 F, 45 M) aged 18 to 76. The main reason for collecting our ratings from adults was that, already by age 11, children exhibit adult-like emotion recognition capabilities. Seven scales showed significant differences between commercials for distinct audiences; with five, in particular, revealing a strong polarization (happiness, amusement, beauty, calm, and anger). In addition, parallel analysis showed that a minimum of three factors are needed to explain the ratings for masculine and mixed targeted commercials, while only two are needed for the feminine ones, thereby indicating that the latter elicit emotions following a simpler underlying structure. Both results reflect larger issues in toy marketing, where gender essentialism is still dominant, and prompt further discussion and research.

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