Promoting positive body image: Body size diversity in media imagery

Phillippa Claire Diedrichs (2010). Promoting positive body image: Body size diversity in media imagery PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

       
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s33605672_PhD_Abstract.pdf s33605672_PhD_Abstract.pdf application/pdf 18.39KB 3
s33605672_PhD_FinalThesis.pdf s33605672_PhD_FinalThesis.pdf application/pdf 14.23MB 21
Author Phillippa Claire Diedrichs
Thesis Title Promoting positive body image: Body size diversity in media imagery
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Christina Lee
Total pages 261
Total colour pages 36
Total black and white pages 225
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary Negative body image is a significant public health concern, due to its high prevalence among women and men across the lifespan, and its detrimental effect on psychological and physical health. Exposure to mass media images depicting idealised, thin and muscular models is a risk factor for the development of negative body image. In recognition of this, governments, politicians and researchers worldwide have called for increased body size diversity in media imagery, in order to promote positive body image. Until recently, however, there has been little methodologically and ecologically sound research to inform these recommendations. Most negative body image and eating disorder prevention research has instead focused on training individual consumers to deconstruct and resist unhealthy media imagery, rather than on the process and impact of changing the images directly. Furthermore, despite no empirical evidence to support their assertions, some industry stakeholders have expressed concerns about the marketability, and health implications, of using more average-sized models in media imagery. The primary aim of this thesis, therefore, was to contribute to an evidence base that has the capacity to inform policy and advocacy in relation to increasing body size diversity in media imagery, as a public health strategy to promote positive body image. To fulfil this aim, this thesis explored the potential for using models with body sizes and shapes that are more representative of the general population – defined here as ‘average-size models’ – to provide a healthy and marketable alternative to current thin and muscular media imagery. The thesis adopted a mixed methodology to provide a comprehensive and contextualised investigation of the use of average-size models in the media. Chapter One provides a general introduction to previous research which demonstrates that the mass media have increasingly promoted narrowly defined cultural ideals of beauty that emphasise thinness and muscularity. It also describes previous research which shows that exposure to thin and muscular media imagery negatively impacts upon body image, and it reviews past research that has examined the use of average-size models in media imagery. Chapters Two and Three address the absence of research investigating the use of average-size models in an Australian context, and the lack of research focused on average-size male models; they describe two experimental studies that examined the impact of female and male average-size models on young Australians’ body image and perceptions of advertisement effectiveness. Then, to provide an often neglected qualitative consumer perspective, Chapter Four describes a series of focus group discussions that explored young Australians’ opinions on body image, the media, and the use of average-size models in media imagery. Chapters Five and Six attempt to address a potential barrier to consumer and industry acceptance of average-size models, that was identified in Chapter Four, by describing the development and evaluation of a brief educational intervention that aimed to reduce the stigmatisation of overweight and obesity. The results of this research suggest that increasing body size diversity in media imagery has the capacity to provide an effective public health intervention to promote positive body image. The studies presented in Chapters Two and Three found that viewing average-size female and male models in print advertisements was associated with more positive body image among some young Australian men and women, than viewing thin female models or no models. They also found that advertisements featuring average-size models were perceived by both women and men to be as effective as advertisements featuring thin and muscular models. The findings from the focus groups study presented in Chapter Four also suggest that there is consumer demand for the media to show models that are more diverse and representative of the general population. However, they also highlighted the need for further research and advocacy to reduce the stigmatisation of overweight and obesity if body size diversity is to be accepted by consumers. In response to this, the findings from the study presented in Chapter Six suggest that learning about weight stigma and challenging beliefs about the capacity for individuals to control their body weight may provide an effective strategy to reduce the stigmatisation of overweight and obesity. Chapter Seven presents a general discussion of these findings, including their implications for future research, policy and advocacy, and their strengths and limitations. In summary, this thesis contributes to an emerging evidence base for the health and marketing benefits associated with the use of average-size models in media imagery. The findings support previous research and suggest that increasing body size diversity in media imagery has the capacity to provide an effective public health intervention to promote positive body image. This research has the potential to inform and support policy and government recommendations regarding increasing body size diversity in the mass media.
Keyword body image
mass media
advertising
average-size models
weight stigma
weight bias
health psychology
mixed-methods
Additional Notes Could pages 226-261 inclusive please be printed in colour.

 
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Created: Fri, 11 Mar 2011, 09:47:32 EST by Miss Phillippa Diedrichs on behalf of Library - Information Access Service