Body dissatisfaction and its relationship with the perceptual effects of exposure to bodies and attentional biases toward bodies

Rebecca Glauert

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] Socio-cultural processes are often cited as one of the main causes of body dissatisfaction amongst women. Numerous studies have found that exposure to thin, idealized images in the media increases women's body dissatisfaction. The central aims of this thesis are to investigate how exposure to thin and fat bodies alters womens perceptions of body normality and body ideals, whether body dissatisfaction is related to these changes, and whether body dissatisfaction is associated with an attentional bias toward thin bodies. In Chapter 1 I review the main theories dominating body dissatisfaction research. In Chapter 2 I present two studies which investigate how exposure to thin and fat bodies influences perceptions of body normality and ideal body size. Women who varied on a measure of body dissatisfaction (Experiment 1 & 2) and awareness and acceptance of societal standards of beauty (Experiment 2) rated a range of computer generated bodies, varying in simulated BMI, for how normal (Experiment 1 & 2) and ideal they looked (Experiment 2). They were then exposed to either thin or fat bodies, and they re-rated the bodies. Increased levels of body dissatisfaction and internalisation of societal standards of beauty were related to a thinner most normal and ideal rated body, before any exposure, as well as a greater discrepancy between the most normal and ideal rated bodies. Both Experiments 1 & 2 revealed that brief exposure to thin or fat bodies altered women's perceptions of body normality and body ideal, where exposure to fat bodies made womens perceptions of a normal and ideal body fatter, and exposure to thin bodies, made perceptions of the most normal and ideal rated body thinner. ... In Chapter 5 I present normative data for the Body Shape Questionnaire-34 (a measure of dissatisfaction with body weight and shape) (Cooper et al, 1987) from an Australian university sample. Many researchers use university samples iv when investigating body dissatisfaction, so it is useful to have normative data for such a sample. One thousand and fifty two women aged between 16 and 30 completed the BSQ-34. A mean score of 94.4 (SD = 34.5) was found, with a range of 34-203. My scores are comparable with those found in an American undergraduate sample, and are significantly higher than those found in community, undergraduate and clinical samples in the UK and Italy. Results indicate that levels of body dissatisfaction may be higher in Australia than in the UK and Italy. Together, these studies provide some important new findings. 1) Body dissatisfaction and internalisation of societal standards of beauty are related to thinner body norms and ideals. 2) Women's perceptions of normal and ideal female body sizes can be readily altered by exposure to thin and fat bodies, and 3) women selectively attend to thin bodies, but the more dissatisfied she is with her own body, the less she attends to thin bodies. Potential implications of these results for the treatment of body dissatisfaction may include the incorporation of treatment programs which target not only unnaturally slim body ideals, but perceptions of what constitutes a normal body, as well as trying to alter selective attention toward thin bodies in the environment. The results may also highlight to the media that consistently showing ultra slim models will very likely affect women's perceptions of normal and ideal female body sizes.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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