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The predictive role of body image and anti-fat attitudes on attentional bias toward body area in haptic virtual reality environment

Abstract

Evidence suggests that dissatisfaction with body image in women can be enhanced by exposure to media’s idealized images. The theory of social comparison and the avoidance hypothesis offer contradictory explanations of this relationship. We compare these two theories using a haptic virtual reality environment. We ask 42 female participants to interact with one of four types of virtual humans (VH) randomly assigned to them. The interaction task involves giving a virtual hug to a normal weight or overweight male or female VH. We verify the hypothesis that participants’ satisfaction with particular body parts and their anti-fat attitudes will determine the choice of the body area of the VH they will virtually touch. Our results show that: (1) touching VH lower torso is predicted by less anti-fat attitude, and avoidance of the upper torso and upper limb areas, and (2) touching VH shoulder and upper limbs areas is predicted by concerns with own stomach area and avoidance of VH lower torso and stomach waist areas. Our results tend to support the avoidance hypothesis as well as other research findings on anti-fat attitudes.

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Correspondence to Line Tremblay.

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Conflict of interest

Stéphane Bouchard is the President of, and owns equity in, Cliniques et Développement In Virtuo, a spin-off from his university that uses virtual reality in private practice and distributes virtual environments. The terms of these arrangements have been reviewed and approved by the Université du Québec en Outaouais in accordance with its conflict of interest policies. The remaining authors report no financial relationships with commercial interests.

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Tremblay, L., Chebbi, B. & Bouchard, S. The predictive role of body image and anti-fat attitudes on attentional bias toward body area in haptic virtual reality environment. Virtual Reality 26, 333–342 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-021-00569-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-021-00569-4

Keywords

  • Haptic
  • Virtual humans
  • Body image
  • Anti-fat attitudes
  • Social comparison theory
  • Avoidance hypothesis