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The researchers found this hypothesis to be supported.Body satisfaction was less when thin models, who represented participants’ ideal body size, were shown, but body satisfaction increased when models who appeared similar in size (average and plus size) were shown.So, when the researchers showed thin models, it was expected that there would be less reported body satisfaction.
Their body weight, appearance and beauty are often associated with their popularity and wealth.
This is particularly obvious in what is referred to as media, a concept which has been looked at with interest by researchers in the field of social psychology(2).
Conversely, exposure to images of models that are similar to one’s actual body type results in higher satisfaction and fewer social comparisons.
Clayton and his colleagues note that there is a “clear psychological advantage of depicting the non-ideal body type in media campaigns.” Additionally, portraying more average and plus-size models “might be a useful persuasive strategy if the goal of a campaign is to increase attention to and memory of a media message.” This essay was translated from the scholarly article: Clayton, Russell B., Ridgway, Jessica L., and Hendrickse, Joshua (2017).
And that, of course, leads to constant scrutiny and comparisons, which can potentially be detrimental to women’s mental and physical health.
It’s not surprising, then, that a new study in NCA’s has found that women who view images of other women with similar and larger body types as their own report higher body satisfaction and fewer social comparisons.The authors then proctored a visual recognition test after participants viewed the series of images to examine which models were most recognizable compared to similarly appearing models not shown during the experiment.While there is growing awareness and advocacy within the fashion and beauty industry to design more clothing for plus-sized women and to promote body-positivity (such as Lane Bryant’s #Im No Angel and Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns), the authors note that it is “unclear how such incorporations influence how women cognitively process these images, and the psychological benefits of viewing and comparing one’s self to fashion models with more realistic body types.” To address this, the study used the self-discrepancy theory, social comparison theory, and limited capacity model of motivated mediated message processing.The Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing (LC4MP) guided the authors’ predictions pertaining to how engaging in social comparisons would influence women’s real-time attention and subsequent performance on the visual recognition task.Participants in this study considered themselves to be at “normal weight” body type/size, but all wished to be thinner, resulting in an actual-ideal self-discrepancy, which is associated with dejection-related affect, such as decreased body satisfaction.There are certainly some very direct messages associated with body weight in the media; celebrities, fashion models and show hosts are often seen as role models, especially by teenagers.They appear to demonstrate what it is to be successful and popular.The researchers also found plus-size models to be recognized more accurately, followed by average and thin size models.The researchers surmise that engaging in social comparisons during exposure to thin models reduced the amount of cognitive resources that could be allocated to encoding and storing the thin models into memory.Yet another framework the researchers used for their study is social comparison theory, which posits that “individuals learn about themselves consciously and automatically by comparing their own traits and abilities with those of other people.” The authors found that greater social comparisons occurred when participants viewed a model who represented their ideal self (thinner).Fewer social comparisons occurred when participants viewed models who were furthest from the participants’ ideal body shape—that is, the average and plus size models.