ETHNIC DIFFERENCES IN THE EFFECTS OF MEDIA ON BODY IMAGE: THE EFFECTS OF PRIMING WITH ETHNICALLY DIFFERENT OR SIMILAR MODELS
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Psychology. American University
IntroductionMany studies have demonstrated that media exposure is positively correlated with body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptomatology. When women are exposed to photographs of thin, attractive women, they often experience an immediate decrease in body satisfaction. While body image concerns are common, African American and Caucasian women often differ and being African American has been found to be a protective factor in the development of body dissatisfaction. MethodThe current study seeks to understand how media impacts African American and Caucasian women. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, viewing ten advertisements showing 1) ethnically-similar thin models; 2) ethnically-different thin models; 3) ethnically-similar plus-sized models; and 4) ethnically-diverse plus-sized models. Following these exposures, body image was measured in each group to determine any differences that exist between groups. In general, this study hypothesized that African American women would have less body dissatisfaction than Caucasian women and their body image would be less influenced by exposure to media images. For Caucasian women, thin models of either ethnicity would result in high levels of body dissatisfaction, but African American women would only have high body dissatisfaction when exposed to thin, ethnically-similar models.Results Analyses controlled for BMI as a potential confound. In this sample, the CDRS measured significant group differences in which African American women had less body dissatisfaction than Caucasian women. Ethnically-similar thin-model conditions did not elicit greater body dissatisfaction scores than ethnically-different thin models or plus-sized models and the ethnicity of the model did not impact the rating of body dissatisfaction for women of either race. There were no statistically significant differences amongst the African American women exposed to plus size versus thin models. However, there were differences in the Caucasian women whereby exposure to plus size models resulted in greater body dissatisfaction than exposure to thin models.Discussion The current study supports the existing literature suggesting that African American women experience less body dissatisfaction than Caucasian women even following exposure to an ethnically-similar thin model. Additionally, this study demonstrated that women exposed to plus size model conditions experienced greater body dissatisfaction than those shown thin models.
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