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“Men more open to feminism when it’s paired with a photo of Canadian actor Ryan Gosling: study,” according to newspaper headline writers who cannot read scientific papers.
If you’re not familiar, Feminist Ryan Gosling is a meme where you add “Hey girl” to feminist statements and print them over images of a sexy Ryan Gosling.
Feminist Ryan Gosling would be a perfect tool to study how humor and celebrity endorsements affect people’s feelings toward ethical problems.
Unfortunately, that’s not actually what this study was determining. 99 college students were split into two groups, one of whom was shown feminist Ryan Gosling images while the other was shown . . . just images of Ryan Gosling.
Then they were given a survey to gauge their feminist proclivities. What the researchers found was that women were equally feminist whether they saw the feminist statements or not, while men tended to be more feminist in the group that viewed the feminist statements.
So what this really showed, if anything, was that men who are exposed to feminist statements, even if they’re in a meme, may be more feminist.
OK, I guess that’s fine.
If you actually wanted to study the influence of Ryan Gosling memes, you’d show one group Feminist Ryan Gosling and the other group just the feminist statements. And even better, you’d have another group that has Ryan Gosling and no “Hey girl” humor, and another group that doesn’t have Ryan Gosling but does have some other non-celebrity related humor, so you could nail down whether it’s his attractiveness/celebrity or the humor of the juxtaposition. And ideally, you’d have people perform activities to subtly gauge their feminist leanings both before and after they see the images and statements.
Fortunately, other studies have been done that suggest that humor, similar to Feminist Ryan Gosling, can help people in ethical decision making, as with a study in the late 90s on a Dilbert-themed board game designed to introduce employees of Lockheed Martin to a new ethics compliance office. I know, it all sounds ridiculous, but researchers studied the game and found that the sarcastic humor helped train employees in ethical problems.
There have been many other similar studies suggesting that humor – particularly unexpected humor that forces us to do a little brainwork to detangle – can throw people off-balance and leave them more open to persuasion. For more info on that, I give a talk called Laugh Riot, which you can either try to find online or have your local university or human resources department or skeptics’ society have me come give the talk.
Here’s hoping someone does some more research on Ryan Gosling’s role in building a better, more equal society. I’m super willing to help look at images of feminist Ryan Gosling. For science.