Researchers measure impact of looking at pictures of skinny women

August 31, 2017 by Bob Yirka report
Sample thin size and plus size models. bioRxiv (2017). DOI: 10.1101/176107

(Medical Xpress)—A small group of researchers from the U.K. has found that exposing people to just 15 minutes of viewing pictures of women can influence their perception of the ideal female body type. In their paper uploaded to the bioRxiv preprint server, Jean-Luc Jucker, Tracey Thornborrow, Lynda Boothroyd and Martin Tovee describe research on people unexposed to modern media and their suggestibility regarding how they believe a woman should look.

To learn more about the impact of people looking at pictures of women with thin bodies, the researchers traveled to the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua—there, people living in villages do not have electricity, and therefore have not been exposed on a continuing basis to images of women with thin bodies.

The researchers asked 80 individuals of various ages and both genders to sit alone at a computer and use software that allowed them to build a woman based on what they believed the ideal female form to be. Each was then shown multiple pictures of women from a clothing catalogue for approximately 15 minutes—some saw pictures from a "normal" catalogue that used typically thin models and some from a plus-size catalogue. Then, each participant was once again asked to create the perfect female form on the computer.

The researchers report that those people who had viewed the pictures of thin models created on average thinner women using the software on the second trial, while those who had viewed the plus-sized models increased the size of the virtual women they created.

Sample thin size and plus size models. bioRxiv (2017). DOI: 10.1101/176107

The researchers suggest that their experiments show that perceptions of the ideal can be influenced by looking at of women for a mere 15 minutes. The group notes that their study was not able to offer any evidence of how long the effect might last, but suggest that people living in places where are virtually always presented in the media as thin are likely to experience a lasting impact. The team notes also that those people who volunteered in the study are scheduled to be wired for electricity very soon, giving them access to television and the internet. Because of that, the group took it upon themselves to report their findings to local schools and churches.

Explore further: Television exposure directly linked to a thin body ideal in women

More information: Jean-Luc Jucker et al. The effect of the thin body ideal in a media-naive population, bioRxiv (2017). DOI: 10.1101/176107

Abstract
The thin ideal is the western concept of an ideally slim or underweight female body, and its omnipresence in the mass media has a negative impact on women's health. Media consumption is associated with a drive for thinness, body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and disordered eating in women of western and/or industrialised societies. Furthermore, cross-cultural research suggests that the media have similar effects when they are introduced into non-western or non-industrialised societies. No study, however, has attempted to induce a change in female body size ideals in a population that is not exposed to the thin ideal and that has currently no access to the media. Here we show experimentally that a short exposure to the thin ideal can change body size ideals in a media-naive population. 80 rural Nicaraguan men and women with very low to non-existent media access created their ideal female body before and after seeing photographs of either thin or plus size fashion models. Analyses revealed a significant interaction between time and group, meaning that exposure to media images shifted the subjects' ideal female body size. We discuss problems posed by the pervasiveness of the thin body ideal in the context of the global obesity pandemic.

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4 comments

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TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2017
Theyre implying that something biological is instead cultural and thus artificial. Its not.

Ever notice how your first impression of an attractive woman fades after the 2nd or 3rd glance? Depends a lot on the illusion of makeup and fashion.

Older women invented makeup and fashion to look more like young virgins full of estrogen. Millennia of refinement of this deception. Appearance also depends a lot on choice, opportunity, and context.
dnatwork
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2017
Theyre implying that something biological is instead cultural and thus artificial. Its not.


It's not clear what you're saying. If you're saying "it's not artificial," then I agree with you.

If instead you're saying "it's biological not cultural, but if it were cultural then it would be artificial" then I disagree with you.

I would say culture is a product of biology, in that humans are born as social animals and will necessarily develop cultures with certain parameters to meet or channel our biological needs. So things that are rooted in culture can't be artificial.

Anyway, these results are hardly surprising. It has long been observed that the ideal of female beauty as represented in and mediated by art has changed over time. The Etruscans had obese fertility idols. The Renaissance had Rubenesque beauties. The ideal is inversely proportional to the relative abundance of food, and cultural products reinforce that ideal.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2017
Among other things, the "experiment" ignores an at least potential subtle effect. The careful posing of the figures in the advertisements. They are made to look tall, statuesque, confident. For many, this makes the clothing look desirable. It might have been different if figures standing normally or even in an ungainly way had been tried. They may have had a different effect.
KBK
5 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2017
there was a study done where men were given silhouettes to look at , silhouettes of women.

IIRC, over 600 men were in the trial. the silhouettes were simple black and white images, pure contrast.

They would slowly zero in on their ideal or idealized silhouette.

This ended up being a 12 year old girl in silhouette.

OK?

That is what the biological ideal for the male of the species is, and culture and society can't change that a single freaking inch ------ and never has.

This has been the norm for the physicality of the male and species choice for procreation....for thousands and thousands of years, back into the dawn of human time.

Cultural mores and standards be damned, the body says exactly the truth..

And there's your thin idealized model. Because it's true. Right to the core. Marriage to 12 and 13 year olds was happening in western society less than 100 years ago - and still is in some parts of the world.

I may not agree with it, but there it is.

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