“Viewing” Pregnancy as Existential Threat: The Effects of Creatureliness on Reactions to Media Depictions of the Pregnant Body

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Although pregnancy clearly evokes many positive reactions, women's pregnant bodies sometimes inspire negative responses. However, little if any empirical attention has been devoted to understanding the psychological reasons for such ambivalence. In this article we tried to fill this gap by using a conceptual analysis grounded in terror management theory. According to this perspective, because people are motivated to deny their similarity to animals (and the mortal vulnerability that entails), when such concerns are salient, they will react negatively to that which has the potential to highlight the creaturely aspects of humanity (i.e., pregnancy). In two experiments, priming the similarity between humans and animals led participants to respond more negatively to a pregnant compared to non-pregnant Demi Moore magazine cover (Study 1) and to perceive Gwyneth Paltrow as less competent when she was portrayed as pregnant (Study 2). We consider implications for understanding objectification and derogation of women.

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Media Psychology, v. 10, issue 2, p. 211-230