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Study: Male Viewers Find Sexy News Anchors Distracting

Jan 26, 2011 – 12:01 PM
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Mara Gay

Mara Gay Contributor

Men watching a news broadcast are more likely to pay attention if a sexy anchor is delivering the day's stories. Just what they're captivated by, however, is another matter entirely.

According to a new study from researchers at Indiana University, male viewers snap to attention at the sight of a female anchor they find attractive, but are distracted by her looks and therefore less likely to remember what she had to say.

In other words? "Men might want to reread the story in the newspaper," Maria Elizabeth Rabe, one of the study's authors, told AOL News in a phone interview.
Male Viewers Find Sexy News Anchor Distracting
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Male viewers are riveted by the sight of a news anchorwoman they find attractive, but may not remember what she said, according to a new study.

Rabe and her colleague Leila Samson wanted to see how sexy anchors affect men's ability to retain the actual news, so they devised an experiment in which they asked hundreds of them to watch the same 24-year-old anchor deliver a broadcast twice -- once dressed in modest attire and another time in something more revealing, complete with jewelry, makeup and cleavage.

The study, published online in the journal Communication Research, found that men were more likely to closely watch the sexy anchors but less likely to remember what they said. So networks that hire attractive news anchors may get higher ratings but have less-informed male viewers as a result.

And it may be hard for those good-looking reporters to be taken seriously, as well. The experiment found that men were less likely to find the alluring anchor credible when she reported on hard news topics like war or politics.

"In particular, sexual cues harden men's perceptions of a woman's ineptness to report on traditionally masculine story topics," the study says.

Rabe said the findings are likely to add fuel to charges of gender and age discrimination in broadcast journalism, where women anchors are increasingly suing their networks for firing them when they hit 40 because they are no longer perceived as attractive.

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"If a network is only interested in high ratings, then attractive female anchors are great," Rabe said. "But if the goal is to inform people, which they say it is, then hiring -- or firing -- an anchor because of her apparent sexiness is counterproductive."

Interestingly, women are also more attentive when they see a good-looking anchor on TV -- except, unlike males, they seem to remember more about what the reporter says, not less. Rabe is developing a new study to understand why, but said she has at least one theory: Women may see those sexy anchors as competition for men.

"We think it may be explained by female-on female competition," she said. "Women look at this attractive woman, and they start to pay attention."
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