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Friday, March 6 • 10:45am - 12:00pm
Loving “real” women: The effects of viewing thin vs. “plus-sized” models on body satisfaction and anti-fat bias

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Mass media reinforce the cultural message of an unrealistically thin body ideal for women (e.g., Tiggemann & Polivy, 2010), which negatively affects their body image (e.g., Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008). Williamson (1996) argued that visual cues activate body-relevant schemas, affecting evaluations. However, not all women are affected equally because meaning is derived from how they perceive and interpret such messages based upon situation-specific judgments (Bessenoff, 2006; Paquette & Raine, 2004) and internalized beliefs/attitudes (e.g., social comparisons: Tiggemann & Polivy, 2010; thin ideal internalization, Dittmar & Howard, 2004). Women experience decreases in body satisfaction after viewing idealized images (Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2002) and anti-fat bias is related to media portrayals of women (Lin & Reid, 2009). However, these findings are less consistent when viewing overweight models, and anti-fat bias changes were never experimentally tested. Furthermore, researchers typically use models rated as “extremely” thin or obese and women only rate the models on appearance. No one has accounted for the potential confound between the models’ thinness and attractiveness. It is critical to examine the effects of observing media images, as well as cognitive processes and beliefs that could explain effects. This is the first experimental study to assess all of these variables and to evaluate their predictive value of changes in satisfaction and anti-fat bias after media exposure. Presenting women with images of “thin” OR “overweight” models and having them rate models on appearance OR non-appearance factors, we addressed the distinction between thinness and attractiveness (i.e. models rated as equally sexy and attractive). Additionally, viewing thin models reduced body satisfaction, while viewing overweight models increased body satisfaction and reduced anti-fat biases. Only body image discrepancy predicted changes after media exposure, however, long-standing beliefs predict pre-existing body satisfaction and anti-fat attitudes.

Friday March 6, 2015 10:45am - 12:00pm PST