SCS 100 Theme 2: Project 2 Exemplar
I chose the advertisements, that I did because I was interested in how they related gender to
food. Each advertisement is marketing a certain food: gelato, candy bars, or ice cream. Each
advertisement depicts either females alone or females in specific gender roles. I was also
intrigued by the advertisements because I am female and I enjoy eating chocolate. When I have
had a hard day I enjoy coming home and indulging in dessert to comfort myself. Some of the
advertisements portray women as having a desire for sweets, which made me question my own
tendency to desire sweet foods after a hard day at work.
Assumptions and Observations
Audience. Each advertisement has a specific audience to which it appeals. Each
advertisement depicts mostly white actors and actresses. The intended audience of these
advertisements are people who use food as reward. The audience for these advertisements
would most likely be people from a westernized civilization who have excess food to use for
pleasure or reward. For example, people who live in countries where there is not easy access to
plentiful amounts of food would not have the same relationship to food as the people depicted in
these advertisements. There are other aspects of the advertisements that make me think the
intended audience is white and westernized. For example, the marriage in the Milky Way
advertisement appears to be a traditional Christian wedding, based on the presence of a priest
and the decoration of the church. The Freddo Ice Cream advertisement depicts children, all of
them white, and represents a democracy in which people are elected to government positions.
The Celebration advertisement is also showing individuals—all of whom are also white—who
again are using food as a way of celebrating. Finally, the Antonio Federici advertisement is
depicting a white nun being sinful by eating chocolate, which again seems to be portraying a
relationship between indulgence and food. I believe the relationship of food as indulgence is a
more westernized and privileged notion. Based on my observations, I believe the intended
audience for most of these advertisements are middle-class, white women.
Message. The message the advertisements are sending all seem to be about the
relationship between people and food. For the Federici advertisement, the message is that
women use rich, sweet food for indulgence and as a “guilty pleasure.” The advertisement even
seems to relate the indulgence of this sweet food with sin by showing a nun who is pregnant.
The Freddo Ice Cream advertisement is also showing a relationship between food and people.
In this advertisement, I observed that the girls are the ones serving food, while the boy is the
one running for office. This advertisement seems to portray a stereotype of women serving
men. It also is showing a relationship between women being the ones to handle the serving and
maybe even the preparation of food. The Celebration advertisement’s message again appears to
show a relationship between women celebrating with food. The ad even shows the girls
celebrating other’s misfortune, thereby seeming to portray females as selfish. The Milky Way
advertisement also depicts a woman as being selfish by indulging in chocolate, which makes
her late for her own wedding. A common message is showing gender stereotypes as they relate
to women and food.
Relationship between people. I believe that in most of these advertisements, the most
important relationship depicted between people is the relationship between sinful females and
others. For example, in the Antonio Federici advertisement, one thinks of an innocent nun who
has sinned. Females are supposed to be innocent and this advertisement taps into the hidden
desires of females. I believe these advertisements also show women as weak compared to their
desires; for example, the women in the Celebration advertisement care only about winning and
do not care about their injured competitor. Although the Freddo Ice Cream advertisement
depicts a different type of gender stereotype, it is still important. The Freddo advertisement
shows females serving males and acting in less important or secondary roles. The relationship
between genders is the most important relationship I observe in these advertisements.
Relationship with product. In each of the advertisements, the relationship that I chose
to focus on is the relationship between women and food. The Freddo Ice Cream advertisement
shows females in the traditional secondary role of serving and preparing food, while the male is
in the primary role of running for office. The other three advertisements all portray women as
being selfish and indulgent when they engage in eating sweet food. The relationship is that a
woman cannot help herself and indulges in the guilty pleasure of a sweet food.
Effectiveness. For me, the least effective advertisement is the Celebration
advertisement, because it depicts females acting in an obviously selfish way by showing them
celebrating when their competitor is injured. The Milky Way advertisement also shows a
woman acting selfishly, but the ad does it in a less obvious way; the consequence of her selfish
behavior is not celebrating another person getting hurt, but that people have to wait for her
wedding. Therefore, the Milky Way advertisement is more effective than the Celebration
advertisement. I also believe the obviousness of the message impacts the effectiveness of the
Antonio Federici advertisement, because if the nun were not pregnant, the message of indulging
and being sinful would be less obvious, and would therefore be more effective for me. Finally,
the Freddo Ice Cream advertisement very obviously depicts stereotypical gender roles; for me,
it is hard to look past that and focus on the product. Overall, the advertisements that make a less
obvious attempt at getting their message across seem to be the most effective.
Social Science Evidence
To back up my observations about the relationship between women and food, which in these
advertisements I observed to represent gender stereotypes of women in servile roles and as
being weak and unable to resist their desires, I looked for evidence within the course so far.
My interest in the portrayal of the women in these advertisements seems to fit both within the
psychological and sociological fields. In Theme 1, we learned that gender stereotypes can be
examined through the idea of the “social construction” of these topics, meaning that society
creates and reinforces the category of gender. In Theme 1, we learned that psychology is the
study of the mind and behavior (American Psychological Association, n.d.) and even though
gender roles may be socially constructed, the behavior of engaging in those gender roles is
very interesting to me.
We learned about perception in Theme 2. Perception plays a big role in these advertisements
because it helps to explain why we perceive what we do from these advertisements. The halo
effect is described as “a bias in which our overall impression of a person (a figurative halo)
colors our judgments of that person’s character” (Baumann Foundation, 2013). The halo effect
comes into play in multiple advertisements. For example, in the Antonio Federici
advertisement, we see a nun who has sinned and we start to make assumptions about all the
other choices in her life. We also do this with the Celebration and Milky Way advertisements.
The depiction of females choosing to indulge within the advertisements leaves the audience
making assumptions about the females’ overall weaknesses and tendency to give into their
desires. Confirmation bias can also be used to describe why we perceive what we do from these
advertisements. Confirmation bias is described as seeking and/or interpreting evidence in a way
that is congruent with one’s existing beliefs or expectations (Nickerson, 1998). Gender
stereotypes already exist; therefore, we are more likely to interpret the advertisements in line
with the gender stereotypes with which we are familiar. According to confirmation bias, we see
the Freddo Ice Cream advertisement as confirming societal gender stereotypes that women are
secondary to men. Even though these cognitive biases happen automatically, we learned in
Theme 2 that they influence our opinions and emotions about situations.
The Theme 1 overview describes one of the big questions in psychology as “What motivates
individuals to act in certain ways?” I used this question, along with the evidence about cognitive
biases, to help inform my own question about gender stereotypes. I am also using my own
experiences because in my household I do more of the cleaning, while my husband does the
lawn work. These behaviors fit into stereotypical gender roles of women doing more of the
cleaning and cooking and men doing more of the yard work. Although my experience is
different than the gender stereotypes portrayed in the advertisements, these behaviors still fit
into the theme of gender stereotypes. I created a question a social scientist might ask using both
the information from the course and my own experiences. Based on this information, my social
science question is: How do cognitive biases influence our behaviors to adhere to gender
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Definition of psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/
The Baumann Foundation. (2013). The halo effect: Why angels and devils walk the earth. Retrieved from
Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General
Psychology, 2(2), 175–220.