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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, 31 A significant effect, however, was found in the plus-models condition. The relaxing of the actual rating toward a heavier shape in the plus-models condition could be a result of reduced social comparison pressure after evaluating plus models, whose body types are not typically represented in the media. However, this is only speculation and more rigorous tests are needed to flesh out this explanation. A simpler account explanation for the interaction characterized by a significant difference in the plus-models condition, but not the thin models condition is contrast effect. Respondents are generally used to seeing thin models of the type shown in the experiment, which simply reinforced existing norms without altering perceptual criteria. But viewing the plus-size models provided new exemplars that differed from the normative shapes held in memory. The priming effects of these norm-discrepant exemplars could have altered perceptual criteria, resulting in visual estimation of a slightly heavier body shape. This process of construction of norms from exemplars is explained in norm theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986). Finally, the data replicate the Rozin and Fallon (1988) findings on perception of social norms of body shape. It appears that in more than a decade since that study, neither the norms for the ideal nor the perceived self-actual has changed much among college- age women. The misperception of social norms, that others perceive a thinner ideal than oneself could have deleterious effects on the body satisfaction. Efforts to neutralize the misperception of the ideal social norm could be a productive avenue for interventions, which could complement other strategies, such as media literacy and the blocking of social comparisons during processing (Cattarin, Thompon, Thomas, & Williams, 2000; Posavac, Posavac, & Weigel, 2001) that are being investigated.

Authors: Prabu, David., Liu, Kaiya. and Cortese, Juliann.
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Ideal Body Image, 31
A significant effect, however, was found in the plus-models condition. The
relaxing of the actual rating toward a heavier shape in the plus-models condition could be
a result of reduced social comparison pressure after evaluating plus models, whose body
types are not typically represented in the media. However, this is only speculation and
more rigorous tests are needed to flesh out this explanation.
A simpler account explanation for the interaction characterized by a significant
difference in the plus-models condition, but not the thin models condition is contrast
effect. Respondents are generally used to seeing thin models of the type shown in the
experiment, which simply reinforced existing norms without altering perceptual criteria.
But viewing the plus-size models provided new exemplars that differed from the
normative shapes held in memory. The priming effects of these norm-discrepant
exemplars could have altered perceptual criteria, resulting in visual estimation of a
slightly heavier body shape. This process of construction of norms from exemplars is
explained in norm theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986).
Finally, the data replicate the Rozin and Fallon (1988) findings on perception of
social norms of body shape. It appears that in more than a decade since that study, neither
the norms for the ideal nor the perceived self-actual has changed much among college-
age women. The misperception of social norms, that others perceive a thinner ideal than
oneself could have deleterious effects on the body satisfaction. Efforts to neutralize the
misperception of the ideal social norm could be a productive avenue for interventions,
which could complement other strategies, such as media literacy and the blocking of
social comparisons during processing (Cattarin, Thompon, Thomas, & Williams, 2000;
Posavac, Posavac, & Weigel, 2001) that are being investigated.


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