Perceptions of physical attractiveness vary across cultural groups, particularly for female body size and shape. It has been hypothesised that visual media propagates Western ‘thin ideals’. However, because cross-cultural studies typically consider groups highly differentiated on a number of factors, identifying the causal factors has thus far been impossible. In the present research, we conducted ‘naturalistic’ and controlled experiments to test the influence of media access on female body ideals in a remote region of Nicaragua by sampling from villages with and without regular television access.
We found that greater television consumption remained a significant predictor of preferences for slimmer, curvier female figures after controlling for a range of other factors in an ethnically balanced sample of 299 individuals (150 female, aged 15-79) across 7 villages. Within-individual analyses in one village over 3 years also showed an association between increased TV consumption and preferences for slimmer figures amongst some participants. Finally, an experimental study in two low-media locations demonstrates that exposure to media images of fashion models can directly impact participants’ body size ideals.
We thus provide the first converging cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental evidence from field-based research, that media exposure can drive changes in perceptions of female attractiveness.
University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research
L.G Boothroyd, Durham University, Department of Psychology
L.J Jucker, Durham University, Department of Psychology and Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe Nicaragüense
T. Thornborrow, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology
R. Barton, Durham University, Department of Anthropology
D.M Burt, Newcastle University, School of Psychology
E.H Evans, Newcastle University, School of Psychology
M Jamieson, University of East London, School of Social Sciences
M.J Tovee, University of Lincoln, School of Psychology