Sex Roles

, Volume 38, Issue 3–4, pp 187–201 | Cite as

Exposure to Media Images of Female Attractiveness and Concern with Body Weight Among Young Women1

  • Heidi D. Posavac
  • Steven S. Posavac
  • Emil J. Posavac


Despite the popular belief that the thinstandard of female attractiveness currently presented inthe media is a primary contributor to the high level ofconcern with body weight among women, experimental studies have not shown that exposure to mediaimages increases women's weight concern. Threeexperiments are reported demonstrating that exposure tomedia images does often result in increased weightconcern among women, but that body dissatisfaction, astable personality characteristic, is a moderator ofvulnerability to this effect. Although most womenreported higher weight concern when exposed to media vs. neutral images, women with low initial bodydissatisfaction did not. In addition, this researchsuggests that negative effects on weight concern mayresult from even passive exposure to media images, but that exposure to realistic attractivenessis less likely to cause increased weight concern. Theethnicity of the participants in these studies reflectedthat of the local population, with over 90% white. The nonwhite participants primarily belonged toone of the following groups; Asian, Pacific Islander,Latino.


Body Weight Experimental Study Social Psychology Media Image High Weight 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brown, J. D., Childers, K. W., & Waszak, C. S. (1990). Television and adolescent sexuality. Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 11, 62-70.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Buss, D. M. (1994). The evolution of desire: Strategies of hum an mating. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Cash, T. F., Cash, D. W., & Butters, J. W. (1983). “Mirror, mirror on the wall...?” Contrast effects and self-evaluations of physical attractiveness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9, 351-358.Google Scholar
  4. Cash, T. F., & Henry, P, E. (1995). Women's body images: The results of a national survey in the U.S.A. Sex Roles, 33, 19-28.Google Scholar
  5. Evans, N., Gilpin, E., Farkas, A. J., Shenassa, E., & Pierce, J. P. (1995). Adolescents' perceptions of their peers' health norms. American Journal of Public Health, 85, 1064-1069.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Feingold, A. (1990). Gender differences in the effects of physical attractiveness on romantic attraction: A comparison across five research paradigms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 981-993.Google Scholar
  7. Franzoi, S. L., & Herzog, M. E. (1986). The body esteem scale: A convergent and discriminant validity study. Journal of Personality Assessment, 50, 24-31.Google Scholar
  8. Franzoi, S. L., & Shields, S. A. (1984). The Body Esteem Scale: Multidimensional structure and sex differences in a college population. Journal of Personality Assessment, 48, 173-178.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Freedman, R. J. (1984). Reflections of beauty as it relates to health in adolescent females. Women and Health, 9, 29-45.Google Scholar
  10. Garner, D. M. (1991). Eating disorder inventory-2. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
  11. Heinberg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1992a). The effects of figure size feedback (positive vs. negative) and target comparison group (particularistic vs. universalistic) on body image disturbance. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 4, 441-448.Google Scholar
  12. Heinberg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1992b). Social comparison: Gender, target importance ratings, and relation to body image disturbance. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 2, 335-344.Google Scholar
  13. Heinberg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1995). Body image and televised images of thinness and attractiveness: A controlled laboratory investigation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 14, 325-338.Google Scholar
  14. Irving, L. M. (1990). Mirror images: Effects of the standard of beauty on the self-and body-esteem of women exhibiting varying levels of bulimic symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9, 230-242.Google Scholar
  15. Jacobi, L., & Cash, T. F. (1994). In pursuit of perfect appearance: Discrepancies among self-ideal percepts of multiple physical attributes. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 379-396.Google Scholar
  16. Lakoff, R. T., & Scherr, R. L. (1984). Face value: The politics of beauty. Boston: MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  17. Markus, H. (1977). Self-schemata and processing information about the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 63-78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCall, R. B. (1994). Fundamental statistics for the behavioral sciences (6th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Pagano, R. R. (1994). Understanding statistics in the behavioral sciences (4th ed.). New York: West Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  20. Polivy, J., & Herman, P. C. (1985). Dieting and binging. American Psychologist, 40, 193-201.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Silverstein, B., Perdue, L., Peterson, B., & Kelly, E. (1986). The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women. Sex Roles, 14, 519-532.Google Scholar
  22. Stein, D. M., & Reichert, P. (1990). Extreme dieting behaviors in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 10, 108-121.Google Scholar
  23. Stice, E., Schupak-Neuberg, E., Shaw, H. E., & Stein, R. I. (1994). Relation of media exposure to eating disorder symptomology: An examination of mediating mechanisms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 836-840.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Striegel-Moore, R. H., Silberstein, L. R., & Rodin, J. (1986). Toward an understanding of risk factors for bulimia. American Psychologist, 41, 246-263.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomas, C. D., & Freeman, R. J. (1990). The body esteem scale: Construct validity of the female subscales. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54, 204-212.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Wear, R. W., & Pratz, O. (1987). Test-retest reliability for the Eating Disorder Inventory. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 9, 265-273.Google Scholar
  27. Wolf, N. (1991). The beauty myth: How images of beauty are used against women. New York: Morrow.Google Scholar
  28. Wood, J. (1989). Contemporary social comparison theory. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 231-248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wooley, O. W., & Wooley, E. (1984, Feb.) Feeling fat in a thin society. Glamour, pp. 198-252.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi D. Posavac
  • Steven S. Posavac
  • Emil J. Posavac

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations