Volume 9

Media Influences on College Students’ Body Image Perceptions

Daniel Wade, Lisa Bommhardt, and Joyce Zarazinski

An abundance of research indicates that the media, especially print ads, have a major influence on women’s perceptions of their body image. In fact, much of the research indicates that women may perceive themselves in a negative light as a result of the unrealistically thin and attractive print models they observe. This study was designed to further explore media influences on body perceptions. One hundred fifty three college students (86 women), with a mean age of 21.6 years, were randomly assigned to view a picture of a lingerie model’s body that was either very thin or heavy. The participants rated the model, themselves and their perception of the ideal body. Next, they provided basic demographic information and completed questionnaires measuring their own self-esteem and body esteem. Results indicated that women had more negative perceptions of their bodies than men. Women reported feeling less satisfied with their body image than did men. Neither men nor women seemed to experience more negative self- perceptions as a result of viewing thinner models. College students who viewed the photograph of the thin model rated the ideal body image as more similar to that model than to the heavier model. Furthermore, women rated their bodies further away from the ideal than the men, regardless of which photograph was viewed.

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