Body image refers to people's judgments about their own bodies. It is formed as people compare themselves to others. Because people are exposed to countless media images, media images become the basis for some of these comparisons. When people's comparisons tell them that their bodies are substandard, they can become depressed, suffer from low self-esteem, or develop eating disorders. The influence of media on body image is ironic, given that as people in the United States and other countries have become heavier and more out of shape, female models have become thinner and male models have become more muscled. Sociologists and psychologists have developed several theories describing how the media influences body image, including social comparison theory, self-schema theory, third-person effects and self-discrepancy theory. They also have developed interventions to offset the negative impact of unreal media images. Sociologists theorize that the media have an investment in promoting body dissatisfaction because it supports a billion-dollar diet and self-improvement industry.
Keywords: Body Dissatisfaction; Body Image; Body Image Disturbance; Objectified Body Consciousness; Reflected Appraisals; Self-discrepancy Theory; Self-schema Theory; Social Comparison Theory; Therapeutic Ethos; Third Person Effect
The study of body image — how people perceive their bodies and how these opinions develop — was pioneered by Paul Schilder in the 1920's. His working definition of body image was "the picture of our own body which we form in our mind, that is to say, the way in which the body appears to ourselves" (as quoted in Grogan 2008, p. 3). Many contemporary researchers feel that this definition downplays the complexity of the field, since body image can refer to a variety of concepts from judgments about weight, size, appearance and normality, to satisfaction with these areas. The term "body image" includes both how people perceive their bodies cognitively and also how they feel about their bodies. Studies of body image show that it influences many other aspects of life. People live their lives in bodies, and understanding how they experience embodiment is crucial to understanding their quality of life (Pruzinsky & Cash, 2002). Dissatisfaction with one's body image can lead to many problems, ranging from depression to low self-esteem and eating disorders.
People feel increasingly pressured by the media about their bodies. The average person is exposed to thousands of beauty images weekly, and these images reflect an unreal body image that becomes more and more removed from the reality of contemporary people, who on average weigh more and exercise less than people did decades ago. At the same time, bodies depicted by the media have become thinner and fitter. Pressure about body image is not new, and even in the days before the electronic mass media expanded to its current size and speed, messages about body image were carried in magazines, books, newspapers, and — looking back even further — in paintings and drawings. Modern-day media do have a financial investment in promoting body dissatisfaction. Advertising revenues from the body industry contribute a great deal to media profits. This connection means that the link between media and body image is a health issue but also raises questions about the end results of consumer culture.
Changing Body Norms in the Media
The ideal body presented by the media has become thinner since the 1960's, particularly for women. At the same time, Americans have become much heavier. Since the 1980’s, the percentage of overweight and obese children has doubles and that of overweight and obese teenagers has tripled. Adults show similar trends; over thirty percent of adult Americans are obese (Ogden et al., 2012). The trend toward thinner and thinner models has developed slowly since the early 1900’s. In the 1920's through magazines and in the new medium of film, a thinner, almost androgynous female form was promoted, epitomized in the flat-chested flapper. The ideal female form became curvier during the hard times of the Great Depression in the 1930's, although it remained relatively slender through World War II. The postwar revival of domesticity led to the media hyping heavier, ultra-feminine images such as Marilyn Monroe, with larger breasts and hips but small waists. This was only a temporary interruption of the century's trend toward increasingly thin bodies as the ideal. Models shrank more throughout the 1980's and 1990's. In these latter decades, models also became fitter, adding muscles and tone to the preferred image. Images of men have followed the same pattern since the 1980's with male models displaying slightly less fat, much more muscled bodies. A study comparing the changing body-mass index of Miss America contestants, Playboy and Playgirl centerfolds, and average Americans and Canadians since the 1960's found that especially during the 1980's and 1990’s, the female centerfolds became dangerously thin, while male models increased in size, and average people gained weight (Spitzer & Henderson, 1999). Through changing norms of beauty images, women are told to be thin; men are told to have little body fat and sculpted muscles (Grogan, 2008; Hesse-Biber, 2007; Soulliere & Blair, 2006).
Modern people live media-saturated lives. Studies suggest that over 80% of women and girls read fashion magazines, most people watch 3 or 4 hours of television a day, and people are exposed to countless images while walking down the street, glancing through the newspaper, and browsing online. This constant exposure affects viewers. Studies suggest that the effect is felt in several areas. People compare themselves to images, internalize these idealized images as the norm, and absorb the message that they should judge themselves based on their appearance. This process of comparison, internalization, and acceptance leads to other effects: distortion of accurate body perception (for example, girls who are normal weight may think they are overweight), negative emotional effects, a tendency to overemphasize messages about appearance, and changes in eating and exercise habits (Tiggemann, 2002).
Psychological Theories on How Media Affects Body Image
The effect of media on body image is complex; it is not simply the equation that exposure makes people feel worse about their own bodies. For one thing, people are not affected equally by exposure to media images. Some react quickly and strongly to beauty images and others are resistant. Some of the difference in reactions to media images has to do with people's individual traits. People who are more self-conscious, who place more importance on appearance, who are heavier, and who have symptoms of eating disorders are more swayed by these images (Tiggemann, 2002).
Three psychological theories are particularly useful in understanding how media images affect people differently:
- Social comparison theory was developed by Leon Festinger in the 1950's. Festinger theorized that to evaluate themselves, people compare themselves to others. Psychologists have expanded this theory and suggested that people compare themselves not only to others in face-to-face interactions, but also to media images.
- Self-schema theory says that people develop a sense of self by considering what makes them unique and valuable and arranging these into schemas, which are used to process social encounters. Some people prioritize appearance in their self-schemas; these people are more likely to place more importance on media images and messages about body image.
- Self-discrepancy theory says that people carry an idealized image of the person they want to be; discrepancies between this ideal and their perceptions of themselves can cause them unhappiness and stress. Media images can contribute to the formation of the idealized image (Grogan, 2008).
Studies have shown that women identify the media as the major source of the perceived social pressure to maintain a thin body image. Thin models are a major source of this pressure; in one study women who viewed images of heavier models were less likely to judge their own bodies negatively (Posavac, Posavac & Weigel, 2001).
Cusumano and Thompson (2001) developed the Multidimensional Media Influence Scale (MMIS) to measure media effects on body image in children. Their research indicated that media effects occur in three distinct areas: awareness, internalization, and pressure. These areas capture the extent to which children are aware that the media promote thinness as an ideal, the extent to which they internalize this ideal as applying to themselves, and the extent to which they feel pressured by the media to conform to the idealized image. Interestingly enough, Cusumano and Thompson found that these three items vary independently; that is, it is possible to be aware of media images without internalizing them. Children who internalized media images were most likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies.
The Impact of the Media on Body Image
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In the recent decades, with the improvement of the living standard, people have been paying more attention to their own physical appearance. For example, when a person faces to a mirror, he or she will think about if his or her height, weight, body shape even the hair style are beautiful in nowadays’ society. Another example is many grandparents think their obese grandchildren are healthy, but a large number of adolescents themselves think as thin as fashion models are healthy. Obviously, different people have different body image in mind. In my view, the different culture backgrounds, genders, age groups or living environments all can cause different body images. This article will talk about how does the media impact people’s body image and some previous studies in body image will be shown.
Media has become the main way for people to get information no matter is the ancient story or the latest news. However, the negative impact also comes out. For example, according to a meta-analysis of 25studies from 1979-2001 shows that people’s body images felt more positive after seeing a fat media image than viewing a thin media image(Groesz,L.,&Murnen,2007). Thus, the researcher sum up that the slender image can let people feel satisfaction. As a result, mare and more social or psychological researcher want to study that how the media influences people’s thinking and use the satisfaction to describe the measure of body image.
Previous study one( body image study in adolescents)
The researcher Hill, G.J. who is the assistant professor of Texas Christian University had a study focus on two main objects. First, to determine media images influence the body image among the collage students. Second, to find if the media effect collage students’ body satisfaction(Hill,G.J.,2009). According to him, the abilitiesof people realise body satisfaction and health behavior,are influenced by mass media images is very important for family and consumer sciences professionals to understand. In this study, there are 184 students who comes from a private university were attended this survey. The average age of student is 21. Both of the male (42%) and female (58%) students were given two sections which were the powerpoint presentation about the weighu management was developed and the questionnaires after the presentation. Firstly, these 184 students were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups. The presentation gave the introduction about achievinh health weight, improving eating habits even the food guide pyramid.
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The difference was the control group were only given the food and mutrition cartoons pictures instead of the experimental group were the photographs of thin or muscular models eating, posing or exercising. After the 15 mins speech,the questionnaires which include self-reported heighy, weight,body satisfaction, happiness with current weight,desire to lose, gain current weight and exercise habit were handed to every student. Through the statistics,scientists find that there was no significant influence between the short-term expoure to media images of thin female and muscular male models and body images However, according to the Nielsen Company’s survey(Hill,G.J.,2009), the average American watched televesion 4.5 hours everyday equals to two months every year. The researchers Hargreaves and Tiggemann shows the study result that adolescent girls had decreased body satisfaction after television advertisments with the thin women. But boys had not influenced by muscular men. Thus, the short-term exposure to mudia images of beautiful models is miniscule compare to the daily basis from everydays’ advertisment onTV.
Previous study two(body image and type 2 diabetes)
This study os about the body image’s sue in the obesity literature. Most of type 2 diabetes patients are overweight or obese. Acturally, body image plays an important role of weight reduction which is beneficial to good diabetes control. In this study which is a cross-sectional analysis contaiin 185 people. Thses 185 people that average from 35-75 which were given questionnaires with 9 body figures, and they needed to pick uo which is ‘look most like yourself’ and ‘do you want to look like’. Also, they needed to answer which the best body image they would like their opposite sex to be and several basic questions. The survey results were shouwn in table 1 and table 2. These figures showed that most of the females think they were heavier than their desired body image(Ingledew,D.K.& Sullivan,G.,2002)
. This always cause the dissatisfation among these type 2 dia betes patients. In conclusion, it is important foe these African-American people with diabetes to first address an individual’s perceived body image, perceived risk of disease. Acording to the author(Ingledew,D.K.& Sullivan,G.,2002)
, use body image to intervene among African-Americans tith diabetes is necessary to prevent and delay diabetes.
The limitations in above two studies.
In the first study, there are two limitation. On the one hand, researchers did not keep the exposure for a long-term. On the other hand, it was ascertained that the questinnaires they answered which mean the weight or exercise frequency. And in the next research also had two limitations of this study. Firestly, due to the cross-section study, it is difficult to make a causal inferenes. Secondly, cause of the typical of African-Americans community, may be there are some problems in using this study results to other communities.
The general research methodology.
Using effects of body mass and body image on exercise motives in adolescence as an example.
At the beginning of whole research,people need to make a aim of the study. In this research,the impact of body mass and bosy image on weight management motive in adolescents had be made as the aim. Then, people should find the preciovs literatures in this areas as the evidences to support researcher’s idea. For instance, ‘Ingledew, Markland, and Medley (1998) found, in a longitudinal study of … weight management … were important for progression to and maintenance of actual activity.’ Next, researcher can go to the survey part. In this case(Kesha,B.R. et al.,2006), author seperates to ten aspect which include participants, measures, questionnaire, exercise Thus, finish all the survey,people need to collect the data to the different areas. For example, author use the table 3 to show exercise level do not has the obviously relationships to Body Mass Index, Perceived body size or Ideal body size. Last, to find the connection between these figures and the results.
Specific health research question and sub-questions.
In order to know how does the media works to influence people’s body image and how can people improve their daily life,here are some research question below we need to find the answers.
First question: How media influence people’s body image?
-What kind of media impact people most?
Second question: In university students, which gender is more easily influenced by media?
-Why are the they eaier?
Dependent and Independent variables
How media influence people’s body image?
Dependent variable:BMI level.
Independent variable: Different media content.
What kind of media impact people most?
Dependent variable:people’ s body image level to each kind.
Independent variable: Different media kind.
In university students, which gender is more easily influenced by media?
Dependent variable:the level of influence.
Independent variable:Two genders.
Significance of the research question
Nowadays, people pay more attentions on different type of medias which became an imprtant part of their life. Similarly, with the development of living standard, people also would like to be more healthy no matter their physical body or the daily living. Thus, find the relationships between the media and health can improve the social health standard(Clark, M.,2004). So ,through these questions, people can indicate how mucn can the media effect people’s life or their thinkings.
Definition of the research question
Body image,is the imagination that people think which physical appearance they should have. Sometime, it can be an expetation of themselve. For example, they think they should have 170 cm height, thin appearance or 60 kg. Acturally,body image can be build by the family backgroud, cultural background,media speared or only a sentence from other people.
BMI,is the abbriation of body mass index which can describe the satisfaction of a person.
Clark,M.,(2004). Is weight loss a realistic goal of treatment in type 2 diabetes? The implications of restraint theory, Patient Educ Couns,53, pp. 277–283.
Groesz,L.,&Murnen. (2007). National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association Organization Overview. Retrieved from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/index.php
Hill,G.J.,(2009). Media images:Do they influence college students’ body image? Journal of family and consumer sciences, 101,28-33. Retrieved from: http://0-proquest.umi.com.library.ecu.edu.au/pqdweb?index=0&did=1879873901&SrchMode=2&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1279774589&clientId=7582
Ingledew,D.K.& Sullivan,G.(2002). Effects of body mass and body image on exercise motives in adolescence. Psychology of sport and exercise. Retrieved from: http://0-www.sciencedirect.com.library.ecu.edu.au/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W6K-46MJG7P-4&_user=1385697&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2002&_alid=1411776489&_rdoc=33&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_cdi=6601&_sort=r&_st=4&_docanchor=&_ct=125336&_acct=C000052520&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1385697&md5=db36e33fe2e4451f4a50edb08082e5fa
(Kesha,B.R. et al.,2006)
Kesha,B.R., Gary,T.L., Bone, L.R., Hill, M.N., Brancati,F.L.(2006). Perceived body image among African American with type 2 diabetes. Patient education and counseling,60,194-200. Retrieved from: http://0-www.sciencedirect.com.library.ecu.edu.au/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TBC-4FD79XY-1&_user=1385697&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2006&_alid=1413002675&_rdoc=98&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_cdi=5139&_sort=r&_st=4&_docanchor=&_ct=421669&_acct=C000052520&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1385697&md5=91570470ba245570e99354cecd4977a2