The effects of education on implicit attitudes of ideal thinness and self-esteem

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Ochs, Bailea
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In today's Western society the ideal women's figure is thin. The media has been criticized for creating this unrealistic body image for women. Many studies have been conducted to educate women on the harmful consequences of obtaining such an unrealistic body image in the hope of creating more realistic expectations. However, these studies measured explicit (external) changes in self esteem and body image, but did not measure implicit (internal) perceptions towards ideal thinness. In other words, education might teach us what the right things to say are, but may not change our desire for unrealistic thinness. Thus, the purpose of the current study is to test whether or not implicit attitudes towards thin idealization are changed through more personalized education. A traditional training approach was compared to the personalized approach and a control presentation. The results show that we were not able to change implicit ideal thinness.
The Effects of Education on Implicit Attitudes of Ideal Thinness and Self-Esteem Bailea Ochs, Washburn University Faculty Sponsor, Joanne Altman Western society’s ideal image of a women’s figure is thin, unrealistic, and harmful • Created and reinforced by the media •Ahern & Hetherington ,2006; Aubrey,2008; Chambers & Alexander 2007; Holmstrom , 2004; Koyuncu, Tok, Canpolat, & Catikkas, 2010; Rabak-Wagner, Eickhoff-Shemek, & Kelly-Vance, 1998; Tiggemann, Polivy, & Hargreaves, 2009; Want ,2009 These effects can be mitigated through education •Critiqued magazine images (Tiggemann et al., 2000) Viewed magazine ads While viewing participants were asked to EITHER compare self against model or fantasize about being the model Reported how many ads had unrealistically thin models Those who compared felt worse about themselves Those who were prevented from comparing (fantasizing) felt better about themselves •Showed movie about the harmful effects of the media’s portrayal (Chambers & Alexander, 2007) Viewed or read “Slim Hopes”- a video about the harms of media Given follow-up quiz and Body Image Scale (Fallon & Rozin, 1985) Were able to verbalize harm of the media on body image which represents an external (verbalized) attitude BUT, no change in ideal body image which reflects an implicit (personal desire) attitude Thus, education might teach us what the right things to say are, but may not change our desire for unrealistic thinness •To test whether or not implicit attitudes towards thin idealization can be changed through more personalized education • Personalized education refers to tying the educational material directly to the participants own specific behavior and eating Education in general will increase self-esteem (explicit) Personalizing education will change one’s ideal body image (implicit feelings) Introduction Participants  33 Women (10-13 per group) Average Age: 20.8 years Average BMI: 25.19 Materials  Demographic survey to collect the following information on participants: Age BMI (chart provided) Relationship status Amount of weekly exercise Exposure of media  Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) 10 questions 4 point Likert Scale Normal range: 15-25  Body Image Scale – BIS (Fallon & Rozin, 1985) *See below for scale Procedure  Completed demographic sheet Completed BIS and Rosenberg scale before and after  Viewed an hour long educational presentation “Traditional” program (Viewed Slim Hopes) “Personalized” program Presentation on sex roles (not weight) as control Method No changes in ideal thinness in any of the groups  Hypothesized education, in general, would increase self-esteem Findings in current study did not support hypothesize  May be due to participants who scored high on self-esteem during the pre-test (ceiling effect) Hypothesized that “personalized” education would change ideal body image Findings in current study did not support hypothesis Perhaps thin ideal image is resistant to change In addition, participants were already thin; half either had a normal BMI or below average BMI Results Personalized Education Powerpoint presentation on healthy eating and dieting: Shown testimonials on weight loss To lose this amount of weight in a healthy way, it would take a little over 2 yrs at 1600 calories a day However, today’s women expect it should take 7months to lose 180 lbs Participants were shown the amount of calories one could consume to lose 180 lbs in 7 months – 550 calories (2 snicker bars) Viewed own calories for context on Calorie Counter ( A full day’s calorie allotment for 7 mo. Get more participants May have been difficult due to duration of study Look at broader group of participants with more normal distribution of body size Test over time; see if effects take time to “sink in”  More extensive training; have participants log their daily food intake over a period of time BIS Lost 180 lbs