Media-Portrayed Idealized Images, Body Shame, and Appearance Anxiety -
Fiona Monro and Gail Huon

This article is being summarized by Kimberly Witkowski.

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     Fiona Monro and Gail Huon conducted research regarding the effects of idealized images on the appearance anxiety and body shame of young females. The researchers predicted that exposure to idealized images in magazine advertisements would result in increased appearance anxiety and body shame. The researchers were also interested in examining the moderating effects of “advertisement type” and “participant self-objectification”(Monro & Huon 85).
 
      The researchers sampled 39 women whose ages ranged from 17 to 37.  To obtain a baseline measurement of appearance anxiety, participant self-objectification, body shame, self-monitoring, and exposure to magazines, questionnaires were given to the participants prior to start of the experiment.  The Social Physique/Appearance Anxiety Scale was used to measure appearance anxiety. Body shame was assessed using the Body Shame subscale of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale. The Surveillance subscale of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale was used to measure self-monitoring. Finally, The Self-Objectification Questionnaire was used to assess participants’ level of self-objectification. These constructs were also measured using visual analog scales.

     To obtain experimental stimuli researchers selected 24 images from well-known magazines. Twelve of these images were advertisements for products related to the body. The other twelve were advertisements for non-body-related products. Within each type of advertisement, half of the ads featured idealized bodies. The other half was digitally altered to remove the idealized body from the advertisement.

      The experiment was conducted in two sessions. In the first session, the participants signed consents forms and completed the aforementioned pretest measures. In the second session, participants viewed the 24 images, organized into four 6-image blocks. Each image block was composed of images that fit into the same “ad-type” and “presence or absence of idealized body” category. Participants were shown each image for 20 seconds and asked to complete “visual analog scales assessing appearance anxiety and body shame.”

      The results of this study showed that exposure to idealized images led to increased body shame and appearance anxiety. This effect was moderated by individual self-objectification. Participants who were high self-objectifiers showed a much larger increase in appearance anxiety after viewing idealized images than did low self-objectifiers. However, in contrast to previous research, no significant differences were found between high and low self-objectifiers on post test measures of body shame. The researchers also failed to find “main or interaction effects” for type of advertisement (89). Piran, cited by Monro and Huon, argues that there is a lack of focus of risk factors in psychological research on this subject (89). He posits that in order to establish successful intervention and treatment methods, psychologists must begin to re-examine prospective risk factors. The researchers in this study argue that this necessity reconfirms the importance of the findings of this study.

     The presentation of idealized bodies in the media remains a great source of pressure for women in our thin-obsessed society. The results of this study suggest that exposure to idealized images in the media can have a detrimental effect on a woman’s self-image. Due to the proliferation of advertisements into nearly all facets of society, the impact of exposure to these types of images is much greater. While exposure to idealized images has a universally negative impact, the results of this study show that said effect is variable in nature. Individual differences, particularly self-objectification, can have a significant moderating effect on the salience of these images.