CAN THE MEDIA AFFECT US? SOCIAL COMPARISON, SELF-DISCREPANCY, AND THE THIN IDEAL

Authors


  • Gayle R. Bessenoff, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut.

  • Thanks to Julie Keen and Sarah Copeland for their help with data collection and to Wendi Gardner, Dave Kenny, Gloria Cowan, and the research lab group at the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders for their thoughtful comments on this research.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Gayle R. Bessenoff, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1020. E-mail: gayle.bessenoff@uconn.edu

Abstract

The current study explored body image self-discrepancy as moderator and social comparison as mediator in the effects on women from thin-ideal images in the media. Female undergraduates (N= 112) with high and low body image self-discrepancy were exposed to advertisements either with thin women (thin ideal) or without thin women (neutral-advertisement control). Exposure to thin-ideal advertisements increased body dissatisfaction, negative mood, and levels of depression and lowered self-esteem. In addition, social comparison processes mediated the relationship between exposure to thin-ideal advertisements and negative self-directed effects. Notably, self-discrepancy moderated this mediation. Women with high levels of body image self-discrepancy were more likely to engage in social comparison from exposure to thin-ideal advertisements, as well as more likely to have those comparison processes induce self-directed negative consequences. This research provides support for an individual difference variable (body image self-discrepancy) that moderates the mediating effect of social comparison from exposure to thin-ideal media.

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