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Effect of Thin vs. Plus-Size Models: A Comparison of Body Image Ideals by Gender
Unformatted Document Text:  Ideal Body Image, 30 recruited from an introductory communication course, which is the first course in the sequence and a prerequisite for more advanced courses in the major. Hence, it is highly unlikely that these students were exposed to academic literature on media effects. Another finding that detracts from the demand characteristics explanation is the elastic body image effect. Even if perceptions of ideal were compromised due to demand characteristics, one could argue that judgment of actual body shape is less vulnerable to this bias. Body shape elasticity was observed in Experiment 2, with a shift between the post- and pre-evaluations of the actual body shape. This shift was observed only in the plus-size condition, but not in the thin models condition. The underlying mechanism that could explain the elastic effect in the plus-models condition, but not in the thin models condition, is not clear. A clear demonstration of social comparison should have led to heavier-than-actual ratings in the thin models condition because of negative affect and body dissatisfaction engendered by comparisons to idealized thin models. The Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner (1999) study demonstrates this effect. But in our study, no significant differences were observed in the thin models condition. One explanation could be that our manipulation was not strong enough. Unlike the Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner (1999) and the Myers and Biocca (1992) studies, in which participants saw engaging television commercials or content for 10 minutes or longer, in our study participants rated five fashion models to the average woman and the average model. We had hoped that this task would be sufficient to indirectly evoke social comparisons between the respondent and the model. Perhaps, the stimuli and task were not strong enough to elicit a social–comparison effect.

Authors: Prabu, David., Liu, Kaiya. and Cortese, Juliann.
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Ideal Body Image, 30
recruited from an introductory communication course, which is the first course in the
sequence and a prerequisite for more advanced courses in the major. Hence, it is highly
unlikely that these students were exposed to academic literature on media effects.
Another finding that detracts from the demand characteristics explanation is the elastic
body image effect. Even if perceptions of ideal were compromised due to demand
characteristics, one could argue that judgment of actual body shape is less vulnerable to
this bias.
Body shape elasticity was observed in Experiment 2, with a shift between the
post- and pre-evaluations of the actual body shape. This shift was observed only in the
plus-size condition, but not in the thin models condition. The underlying mechanism that
could explain the elastic effect in the plus-models condition, but not in the thin models
condition, is not clear.
A clear demonstration of social comparison should have led to heavier-than-actual
ratings in the thin models condition because of negative affect and body dissatisfaction
engendered by comparisons to idealized thin models. The Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner
(1999) study demonstrates this effect. But in our study, no significant differences were
observed in the thin models condition. One explanation could be that our manipulation
was not strong enough. Unlike the Lavine, Sweeney, and Wagner (1999) and the Myers
and Biocca (1992) studies, in which participants saw engaging television commercials or
content for 10 minutes or longer, in our study participants rated five fashion models to the
average woman and the average model. We had hoped that this task would be sufficient
to indirectly evoke social comparisons between the respondent and the model. Perhaps,
the stimuli and task were not strong enough to elicit a social–comparison effect.


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