Does repeatedly viewing overweight versus underweight images change perception of and satisfaction with own body size?

Helen E Bould*, Katharine Noonan, Ian S Penton-Voak, Andrew L Skinner, Marcus R Munafo, Rebecca J Park, Matthew Broome, Catherine J Harmer

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Body dissatisfaction is associated with subsequent eating disorders and weight gain. One-off exposure to bodies of different sizes changes perception of other’s bodies, and perception of and satisfaction with own body size. The effect of repeated exposure to bodies of different sizes has not been assessed. We randomised women into three groups, and they spent five minutes twice a day for a week completing a one-back task using images of women modified to appear either under, over, or neither over- nor underweight. We tested the effects on their perception of their own and others’ body size, and satisfaction with own size. Measures at follow up were compared between groups, adjusted for baseline measurements. In 93 women aged 18-30 years, images of other women were perceived as larger following exposure to underweight women (and vice versa) (p<0.001). There was no evidence for a difference in our primary outcome measure (Visual Analogue Scale own size) or in satisfaction with own size. Avatar-constructed ideal (p=0.03) and avatar-constructed perceived own body size (p=0.007) both decreased following exposure to underweight women, possibly due to adaptation affecting how the avatar was perceived. Repeated exposure to different sized bodies changes perception of the size of others’ bodies, but we did not find evidence that it changes perceived own size.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Cognition
  • Tactile Action Perception
  • Brain and Behaviour

Keywords

  • body size
  • eating disorders
  • perception
  • adaptation
  • weight
  • body dissatisfaction

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    Does repeatedly viewing overweight versus underweight images change satisfaction with own body size?

    Bould, H. E. (Creator), Munafo, M. R. (Creator), Penton-Voak, I. S. (Contributor), Noonan, K. (Contributor), Skinner, A. (Contributor), Park, R. (Contributor), Broome, M. (Contributor) & Harmer, C. (Contributor), University of Bristol, 15 Dec 2016

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