Factors influencing body-image evaluation and body-image investment, a test of sociocultural and social comparison hypotheses

by Morrison, Todd Graham

Abstract (Summary)
Two theones (soaocultural and soaal comparison) that have been proposed to explain variations in body-image evduation (i.e., evaluative thoughts and beliefs about the body) and body-image investment (Le., behavioun that are performed to manage or enhance physical appearance) were investigated. Soaocultural theory suggests that mass media promote unrealistic standards of attractiveness which, in tum, contribute to negative evaluations of the body and high lwels of body-image investment. To examine this theory, data were coilected measuring self-reported consumption of body-relevant magazines and television programmes as well as endorsement of soaocultural ideals about attractiveness. Soaal comparison theos, asserts that using universalistic targets such as models in magazine advertisernents to waluate one's physical appearance produces similar effects (i.e., negative body attitudes and high levels of investment). To examine this theory,data were colleaed measuring frequency of self-cornparison with targets which varied hom particdaristic (e.g., family) to universalistic (e.g., celebrities) . The relationshi ps between bodyimage evaluation, body-image investment, and individuai difference variables such as age, body mass index, and teasing about physical appearance also were investigated. Partiapants were 1543 adolescents (765 males and 778 fernales) in grades 10 and 12. Results provided little support for sociocultural theoxy, and modest support for social cornparison. Specifically, it was found that: a) self-perceptionsof attractiveness were iii inversely associated with body mass index (females only), being teased about physical appearance (males only), and fieqwncy of universalistic soaal cornparison (males and females); b) desire for weight loss was inversely assoaated with age (males only), and positively associated with both body mass index (males and females) and being teased about physical appearance (males only); c) desire for weight gain was positively assoâated with age (males only), and negatively related to body mass index (males and females); and d) pathogenic weight control practices were positively associated with consumption of body-relwant magazines (males only), body mas index (females only) , and being teased about physical appearance (females only). Findy, anti-fat attitudes were positively related to endorsement of sociocultural ideals about attractiveness (males and females) and negativeiy related to body mass index (females only). Limitations of the present study and directions for future research are disnissed. Adcnowledgements 1would iike to thank my supexvisor, Dr. Rudy Kalin, and the members of my thesis cornmittee, Dr. Fred Boland and Dr. Patriaa Mimes. The various contributions that they made to this document were much appreciated. As weU, I would like to thank Dr. Lee Fabngar for his statistical advice. A special note of gratitude also is extended to the following individuals: JoEkn, Melanie, and Murray Morrison, Elayne M. Bell, Lindsay D. McLeod, and Wendy E. O'Connor. Given my aversion to "cheap sentiment," and my detemiination to show the utmost deconim at all times, 1shd refrain hom issuing a panegyric to each and every one of you. Instead, 1 wiil limit my comments to a simple, yet heartfelt, THANK YOU! Also, I would like to thank Sarah Hill, Amanda Parrïag, Liane Greenberg, Kathy Henderson, and Dana Anderson. Finally, 1dedicate this dissertation to Marjory Graham. It's a rather insignificant gesture in cornparison to what you've done for me; howwer, 1 hope it demonstrates how instrumental you've been in the completion of this degree.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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