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Frued

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A Review of Literature of
MEDIA’S INFLUENCE ON BODY IMAGE and its AFFECTS

Introduction Body image is a central part of mental and physical well-being, and because the mass media are pervasive communicators of social standards, they greatly influence people’s perception by setting unrealistic standards for what is “normal” for body weight and appearance. Thus, reinforcing people to emulate and believe what they see and hear. There is an extensive amount of studies on the effects of media exposure on body dissatisfaction and the experience of negative thoughts and esteem about one’s body, which is linked to a range of physical and mental health problems, including eating disorders and low self-esteem.
Body Image: Self-Esteem and Identity Several individual variables predict or influence the relationship between media exposure and body disturbances. Most of the research has been done with women and girls, for whom the “body perfect” ideal is ultra-thin, and whose media models are typically underweight (Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). To determine whether viewing images of thin models influences how women feel about their bodies, there were many studies done using the social comparison framework, finding that women engage in “upward social comparisons,” comparing themselves to the thin models depicted in the media. When women believe that they do not measure up to the models, they feel more negatively about their own weight and body. For example, Lin and Kulik (2006) found that college women experienced decreased body satisfaction and confidence of attractiveness after viewing a single image of a thin woman. Another study by Lin and Kulik assessed the effects of media images on weight satisfaction. Female undergraduate students were exposed to thin models, average size models, and plus-size models, and results showed that weight satisfaction varied significantly by model type. The results showed that women exposed to the thin model images had the lowest levels of weight satisfaction. Whereas, women exposed to the plus-sized models had the highest levels of weight satisfaction (Irving, 1990). However, another study (Tiggermann, Polivy, & Hargreaves, 2008) reported contradictory findings, where, in contrast to greater body dissatisfaction after exposure to thin images, some women reported positive, effects. These latter results led researchers to propose two different psychological processes that occur when women view thin media models; comparison processing, which is evaluating themselves with respect to the model, and fantasy processing, identifying with “being” the model. Both of these psychological processing methods are known as thin-ideal internalization (Dittmar, 2008). Thin-ideal internalization is making a cultural demand one’s own ideal, and according to Higgins, (1987) in order to experience body shame, one must have internalized the cultural body standard. In regard to body dissatisfaction, media ideals become such a crucial part of personal identity, and according to the studies, because media images are processed differently, it depends on which psychological-process that women have in relation to the thin ideal exposure, that will determine the effects of the media, and level of satisfaction. According to Dittmar, (2006) recently he found that the media has also began to portray an increasingly muscular body ideal for boys and men. There was a meta-analysis on men that reported a significant association between negative body image and the consumption of ideal male media images in 15 correlation studies, as well as a negative body image after direct exposure to the images in 10 experiments. This data shows that the mass media do not just affect the way young girls and women view themselves, but also how some young boys and men view themselves, as well.
Body Image: Eating Disorders & Weight The media associates thinness with desirableness, and a study by Fouts and Burgaff (1999) revealed that the thinner the female, the more positive comments she received about her body from males. This reinforces the idea that in order for a female to receive attention and approval from a man, she must be thin. As a result, thinness has become a much sought after value. However, media images of female beauty are unattainable for most women. Researchers generated a computer model of a woman with Barbie-doll proportions and found that her back would be too weak to support the weight of her upper body, and her body would be too narrow to contain more than half a liver. A real-life woman built that way would suffer from extreme health issues (Kilbourne, 2009). Yet, millions of young girls and women own and have owned at least one Barbie doll in their lifetime. The amount of discrepancy between the actual and ideal body is associated with the degree to which the woman engages in behaviors to transform the body to match the ideal (Banfield, 2002). The thin-ideal internalization also presented risk factors in women’s eating disturbances because the drive for the thin ideal may predict the degree in which a woman engages in actions intended to control her weight. The specific weight control behaviors considered in the study were fasting, crash dieting, vomiting, taking diet pills, using diuretics, taking laxatives, exercising, smoking, purposely cutting calories, intentionally skipping meals, and eating (Cafri, Yamamiya, 2001). A few controlled laboratory investigations have been conducted to find that women with eating disorders demonstrated a significant increase in perceptual body image disturbance, following exposure to photographs of models from popular fashion magazines. In another study (Irving, 1990), participants with different levels of self-reported bulimic symptoms were exposed to thin, average, and oversized models, and the participants shown photographs of thinner models, reported significantly less self-esteem and weight satisfaction, than subjects shown photos of larger models. This evidence shows that images of media effects the way the subjects perceive themselves. However, because there was already a pre-existing body image issue with these participants, due to the bulimic conditions, further studies on eating disorders may have to be done.
The Culprit--Types of Media Women’s magazines have been criticized as being advocates and promoters of the desirability of an unrealistic and dangerously thin ideal, more than any other form of mass media (Wolf, 1990). Researchers report that women’s magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance--- by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery (Kilbourne, 2009). However, television and movies also reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth, and advertising rules the marketplace. In the average home, it is reported that television is on for more than 7 hours per day (Harris, 1994), and the same unrealistic ideals that are in print media, can be found on television. The majority of female TV characters are thinner than the average American woman, while less than 10% appearing on TV are overweight (Heinberg, 1996). A survey (Garner, 1997) indicated the significant impact that the mass media has in promoting the cultural ideal of thinness and beauty for women, and of 3,452 women who responded, 23% indicated that movie or television celebrities influenced their body image when they were young. Twenty-two percent believed that the influence of fashion magazine models. However, in contrast, only 13% and 6 % of men reported an influence of movie/TV celebrities or fashion magazine models. In advertising, thin is "in." Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average woman. However, according to Kilbourne, today’s models weigh 23 percent less because advertisers believe that thin models sell products.
Summary and Conclusion This paper has reviewed the scientific literature available on the relationship between the mass media and body image and the internalization of socio-cultural standards for appearance and it has been clearly demonstrated that print media and television affect how individuals feel about their bodies. Exposure to magazines and television leads to body image dissatisfaction, which leads to eating disorders. Based upon the findings for people high in “internalization,” it could be extremely destructive. The overwhelming presence of media images of extremely thin women means that real women’s bodies have become invisible in the mass media. When women internalize these ideals and judge themselves by the beauty industry's standards, it makes them question their identity and damages their self-esteem. Suggestions are for people to be more selective or discriminating in their use of mass media, and develop ways to reduce social comparison. Another suggestion is to surround themselves with positive people who encourage and promote self-esteem.

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