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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, 7 Social Comparisons with Idealized Media Images While self-discrepancy theory offers a framework to evaluate body dissatisfaction, a more basic social comparison process has been found to be predictive of body dissatisfaction (Botta, 1999; Heinberg & Thompson, 1992). According to Festinger (1954), people are driven to make social comparisons. Some are downward comparisons in relation to others and some are upward comparisons toward ideals that one strives for. With the media constantly reinforcing idealized norms of attractiveness and thinness, repeated social comparison with these norms could explain the formation of distorted self-ideals. Of course, not everyone is equally vulnerable to the internalization of these norms (Cattarin, Thompson, Thomas, & Williams, 2000). Many women are able to either simply reject it, or take a more multidimensional view of the self, in which the ideal body image is assigned less importance. In a survey of adolescents, Botta (1999) examined the impact of social comparisons on body image and found that the extent to which a participant compared herself to television characters was a significant predictor of bulimic tendencies. Focus group findings (Richins, 1991) also support the notion that social comparisons between self and the idealized media images are common among young women. When social comparison was correlated to body dissatisfaction and eating disorder indices, Heinberg and Thompson (1992) found a significant correlation among women, but not for men. If social comparison with idealized media images is an important aspect of the internalization of body ideals, one could predict that these ideals could be adjusted if media represented more realistic norms. In other words, if the body shapes of models represented in the media were more representative of the average women, rather than an

Authors: Prabu, David., Liu, Kaiya. and Cortese, Juliann.
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Ideal Body Image, 7
Social Comparisons with Idealized Media Images
While self-discrepancy theory offers a framework to evaluate body
dissatisfaction, a more basic social comparison process has been found to be predictive of
body dissatisfaction (Botta, 1999; Heinberg & Thompson, 1992). According to Festinger
(1954), people are driven to make social comparisons. Some are downward comparisons
in relation to others and some are upward comparisons toward ideals that one strives for.
With the media constantly reinforcing idealized norms of attractiveness and thinness,
repeated social comparison with these norms could explain the formation of distorted
self-ideals. Of course, not everyone is equally vulnerable to the internalization of these
norms (Cattarin, Thompson, Thomas, & Williams, 2000). Many women are able to either
simply reject it, or take a more multidimensional view of the self, in which the ideal body
image is assigned less importance.
In a survey of adolescents, Botta (1999) examined the impact of social
comparisons on body image and found that the extent to which a participant compared
herself to television characters was a significant predictor of bulimic tendencies. Focus
group findings (Richins, 1991) also support the notion that social comparisons between
self and the idealized media images are common among young women. When social
comparison was correlated to body dissatisfaction and eating disorder indices, Heinberg
and Thompson (1992) found a significant correlation among women, but not for men.
If social comparison with idealized media images is an important aspect of the
internalization of body ideals, one could predict that these ideals could be adjusted if
media represented more realistic norms. In other words, if the body shapes of models
represented in the media were more representative of the average women, rather than an


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