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Effects of exposure to bodies of different sizes on perception of and satisfaction with own body size: Two randomized studies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number171387
Number of pages14
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume5
Issue number5
Early online date9 May 2018
DOIs
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Apr 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 9 May 2018
DatePublished (current) - 9 May 2018

Abstract

Body dissatisfaction is prevalent among women and associated with subsequent obesity and eating disorders. Exposure to images of bodies of different sizes has been suggested to change the perception of ‘normal’ body size in others. We tested whether exposure to different-sized (otherwise identical) bodies changes perception of own and others’ body size, satisfaction with body size and amount of chocolate consumed. In Study 1, 90 18-25-year-old women with normal BMI were randomized into one of three groups to complete a 15 min two-back task using photographs of women either of ‘normal weight’ (Body Mass Index (BMI) 22-23 kg m−2), or altered to appear either under- or overweight. Study 2 was identical except the 96 participants had high baseline body dissatisfaction and were followed up after 24 h. We also conducted a mega-analysis combining both studies. Participants rated size of others’ bodies, own size, and satisfaction with size pre- and post-task. Post-task ratings were compared between groups, adjusting for pre-task ratings. Participants exposed to over- or normal-weight images subsequently perceived others’ bodies as smaller, in comparison to those shown underweight bodies (p < 0.001). They also perceived their own bodies as smaller (Study 1, p = 0.073; Study 2, p = 0.018; mega-analysis, p = 0.001), and felt more satisfied with their size (Study 1, p = 0.046; Study 2, p = 0.004; mega-analysis, p = 0.006). There were no differences in chocolate consumption. This study suggests that a move towards using images of women with a BMI in the healthy range in the media may help to reduce body dissatisfaction, and the associated risk of eating disorders.

    Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition
  • Tactile Action Perception
  • Tobacco and Alcohol

    Research areas

  • Body, Body dissatisfaction, Body size, Eating disorders, Perception, Weight

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via The Royal Society at https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171387 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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