Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

"I Know You Are Not Real": Salience of Photo Retouching Reduces the Negative Effects of Media Exposure Via Internalization

Academic journal article Studia Psychologica

"I Know You Are Not Real": Salience of Photo Retouching Reduces the Negative Effects of Media Exposure Via Internalization

Article excerpt

Abstract: Mass media are one of the most powerful conveyors of beauty ideals, promoting an unrealistic image of female beauty that is impossible for the majority of females to achieve. Internalization of such ideal standards leads to negative affect, body-focused anxiety, and dissatisfaction. Present study compared two different approaches aimed at reducing such negative outcomes, one based on awareness of the deceptive nature of media techniques (i.e., photo retouching), and the other based on the use of "real" women as models. One hundred and fifty-one female undergraduates participated in the study. Results showed that retouching salience can reduce the level of internalization of beauty ideals and thus the negative effects of media images exposure, such as negative mood and decrease in self-esteem. On the contrary, ideal images and "real" images play a similar role in fostering internalization of beauty ideals. Implications are discussed.

Keywords: mass media, positive and negative mood, state self-esteem, photo retouching

Introduction

Among the possible mechanisms for transmission of ideals, such as through family and peers, the mass media are probably the most powerful conveyor of beauty ideals, promoting an unrealistic image of female beauty that is impossible for the majority of females to achieve (Levine & Murnen, 2009). Indeed, the media uniformly idealize an artificial icon of female beauty that is predominantly slim, yet incredibly toned and curvaceous, with perfect skin and hair (Want, 2009).

Socio-cultural theory attributes many negative psychological outcomes among Western women to the media's projection and promotion of this "body perfect" ideal. Literature has provided convincing empirical evidence for the relationship between exposure to media models and women's body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness (e.g., Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008; Groesz, Levine, & Murnern, 2002; Tiggemann, 2003). The implications of these findings for women's wellbeing and physical health have been well documented, in terms of depression (Grabe & Hyde, 2009), body shame and anxiety (Grabe & Hyde, 2009; Harper & Tiggemann, 2008), lower self-esteem (Bardone-Cone & Cass, 2007; Rollero, 2013), negative mood (Rollero, 2013; Tiggemann & McGill, 2004) and disordered eating (Harrison & Cantor, 1997). As Grabe and colleagues (2008) showed in their meta-analysis, these effects of media exposure are demonstrated in both the experimental and the correlational literature, regardless of assessment technique, individual difference variables, media type, or other study characteristics.

However, it is not exposure to "body perfect" ideals per se that seems detrimental: the real problem seems to come when people internalize such standards of appearance (Giles & Close, 2008). The process of internalization of beauty ideals refers to the extent to which an individual regards the societal norms of size and appearance as appropriate standards for his or her own appearance (Thompson & Stice, 2001). These standards, in turn, determine which visible body attributes are important for "being beautiful". In sum, media convey beauty ideals and the internalization of these messages may guide the perception of one's body and worth (Rollero, & Tartaglia, 2013; Vandenbosch & Eggermont, 2012).

The meta-analysis conducted by Groesz and colleagues (2002) showed that women with higher levels of intern alization at baseline are adversely influenced by media images the most. Specifically, media internalization leads to negative affect and bodyfocused anxiety (Dittmar, Halliwell, & Stirling, 2009; Dittmar & Howard, 2004). Moreover, internalization of sociocultural standards of appearance significantly predicts women's drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction (Bair et a l. , 2012; Lokken , Worthy, & Trautmann, 2004; Tiggemann, 2003).

However, the level of internalization of media standards should not be considered as an individual unchangeable trait. …

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