Buffering against the negative effects of body image media exposure : a comparison of social psychological interventions
Master of Arts
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Evidence of sociocultural influences on the development and maintenance of body image comes from shifting media trends and cross-cultural differences in the prevalence of eating disorders. Further, previous research has indicated that brief exposure to media portrayals of ideal female attractiveness can have significant affective and cognitive impacts on young women with low levels of dispositional body satisfaction. The current research employed principles elaborated in the literature on social influence and persuasion to develop and test the efficacy of two types of interventions aimed at buffering women against the deleterious effects of brief media exposure. Interventions were provided to 53 female undergraduates in groups of 3 - 9. Thirty-three females formed the control group. In a “social influence" intervention, peer pressure was exerted upon participants to report that the media ought to have a very minor role in determining how people feel about themselves and others by way of a simulated consensus of a homogeneous group reporting the same. In a second type of intervention, participants viewed a psychoeducational video which taught skills for critically appraising body image related messages conveyed through popular media. Participants were exposed to the combined intervention (social influence and persuasive video), the video, or no intervention. Participants then viewed pictures of fashion models depicting the sociocultural standard of female attractiveness. Measures of current mood states and body image taken prior and subsequent to interventions and exposure to images indicated that the interventions did not buffer against the effects of media exposure. In fact, mood actually worsened. Results are discussed in terms in terms of theories of social influence and persuasion. Future directions for research are provided.