Physique Anxiety and Self-Efficacy Influences on Perceptions of Physical Evaluation

Article excerpt

The present study integrated concepts from social cognitive and self-presentational theories to determine the relationships among social physique anxiety, self-efficacy and outcome expectations, and state anxiety in situations of varying physical evaluation potential. These situations included scenarios considered to be high in physical evaluation, low in physical evaluation, and an exercise condition scenario, considered as high and low in physical evaluation by different individuals. Results demonstrated that the highest levels of state anxiety were found in the high physical evaluation/threat conditions and the lowest levels of anxiety were reported in the low physical evaluation/threat conditions. Additionally, the results demonstrated that being female and higher in physique anxiety resulted in greater self-reported state anxiety when encountering a physically evaluative condition of high threat potential. In exercise conditions, it was found that more efficacious individuals reported less state anxiety, however, in low physical evaluation conditions none of the variables predicted state anxiety. Results are discussed in terms of the integration of concepts from the social cognitive perspective and self-presentation theory and social physique anxiety as a dispositional quality.

Although regular physical activity participation can result in considerable health benefits (Bouchard, Shephard, & Stephens, 1994), these benefits are rarely the sole reasons given for exercise participation. For example, weight control, improvement of body tone and overall physical attractiveness are consistently identified as reasons for exercising (Silberstein, Striegel-Moore, Timko, & Rodin, 1988). Such reasons have been argued to be self-presentational in content (Leary, 1992) and represent processes by which people monitor and attempt to control how others perceive them (Schlenker, 1980). Thus, those people who are attempting to improve or maintain physical appearance through exercise or to construct a certain social image (e.g., fit and athletic) are clearly exercising for self-presentational reasons.

Given contemporary society's obsession with appearing attractive, it should come as little surprise that many people exercise for self-presentational reasons. Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, and Tantleff-Dunn (1999) have noted that, in Westernized American society, the equating of beauty with goodness and virtue (Franzoi & Herzog, 1987) has resulted in ultrathinness becoming almost synonymous with beauty (Striegel-Moore, McAvay, & Rodin, 1986; Thompson, 1990). Davis (1997) has noted that such a philosophy has undoubtedly contributed to the estimated 90% of North American women who are dissatisfied with their body shape and size (Probast & Lieberman, 1992). Moreover, increasing numbers of men desire a muscular body shape and are moving further along the continuum of bodily concern (Mishkind, Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-- Moore, 1986). In addition, this fixation with "looking good" can serve to put people in situations that are perceived as threatening from a physical evaluation perspective.

The interaction of body image concerns as a result of social pressures with certain personality characteristics can amplify some individuals' responses to these social pressures (Striegel-Moore et al. 1986). This is especially likely to occur in situations with high physical evaluation potential. One personality characteristic that is likely to influence such responses is social physique anxiety, a subtype of social anxiety (Schlenker & Leary, 1982) experienced in response to other people's evaluations of one's physique (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989). It has been demonstrated that high levels of social physique anxiety can impede physical activity participation (Bain, Wilson, & Chaikind, 1989) and lead to exercising more for body appearance or self-presentational reasons (Crawford & Eklund, 1994; Eklund & Crawford, 1994; Frederick & Morrison, 1996). …