Team publishes research on use of disclaimer labels to combat negative effects of media on body image

April 18, 2016, Chapman University
Credit: Chapman University

Extensive exposure to slender and attractive models who have been digitally altered to appear flawless has negative effects on how many women feel about their bodies. Researchers at Chapman University tested if adding disclaimers or "subvertisements" to these images counteracts the negative effects of this media. Subvertisements are changes that body image activists make to advertisements to counter or "subvert" the message of the ads. The researchers exposed women to media images of bikini models, and added either disclaimers or subvertising messages to them.

"The results showed that the exposed to the disclaimers and subvertising did not report higher body satisfaction than women exposed to unaltered images," said David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and lead author on the study. "These results raise questions about the effectiveness of disclaimers and subvertising for promoting body satisfaction."

To test whether disclaimers or subvertising were effective, 2,288 women were recruited across two studies. The average age of women participating in the surveys was 35. Some women were shown unaltered advertisements that featured slender women. Other women were exposed to these same images but had a disclaimer label in red stating "WARNING, this photo has been photoshopped."

The last set of women saw these images after they had been subvertised with different messages written across them. Examples of different subvertisements included "Photoshop made me ripped," an image focusing on a woman's buttocks with the phrase, "Why don't you show that she is a person with a face and personality instead of presenting her as a sexualized body part," and a thought bubble coming out of a model's head stating, "I'm thinking about that last cheeseburger I ate... 5 years ago."

Credit: Chapman University

After viewing the images, the participants were asked to complete established measures of and dieting. They were also asked how much they compared their bodies to the bodies of the models. Women who saw the subvertised or disclaimer images did not feel any better about their bodies than women who saw the unaltered images.

Several governments and trade groups have encouraged advertisers to include labels on digitally altered media as a way to protect consumers and prevent the of this media on body image. Disclaimers and warning labels have been widely used in the tobacco industry, with Surgeon General's warnings on every pack of cigarettes. The study results offer reason for pessimism regarding the effectiveness of disclaimers and subvertising for improving body image.

"There is no existing research that has examined whether viewing images that have been subvertised improves , reduces social comparison, or reduces a desire to be thin," said Dr. Frederick. "We found that simply viewing subvertised was not effective. Instead, research shows that other approaches, such as media literacy programs and individual therapy appear to be more effective interventions. Even if viewing the actual subvertisements does not benefit most women, the act of creating them may be a positive experience for women experiencing dissatisfaction."

Explore further: Women who are told men desire women with larger bodies are happier with their weight

More information: David A. Frederick, Reducing the negative effects of media exposure on body image: Testing the effectiveness of subvertising and disclaimer labels, Body Image (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.009

Related Stories

Women who are told men desire women with larger bodies are happier with their weight

January 13, 2015
Telling women that men desire larger women who aren't model-thin made the women feel better about their own weight in a series of new studies.

New study analyzes 'thinspiration' images of women on social media sites

May 8, 2015
Some of the most popular social media sites are filled with images of extremely thin women that might be harmful to those who view them—whether they are seeking them or not, according to research from the University of ...

Why women buy magazines that promote impossible body images

November 5, 2014
A new study reveals the secret of how some fashion and beauty magazines continue to attract devoted audiences, even though they glamorize super-thin models that would seem to taunt normal-sized women.

Tracking fat talk through your smartphone

January 19, 2016
Seemingly harmless comments like 'My thighs are huge' or 'I hate my calves' are feeding the body image problems of many women.

Team publishes work on Asian American and white women's views on face image

January 26, 2016
Researchers at Chapman University have published work on how Asian American women and white women feel about their faces, their weights, and their overall appearances. The researchers surveyed 303 Asian American women and ...

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.