on Body Image Development
The translation of the physical body into the mental representation of the body and then into attitudes and behaviors toward the body is a complex and emotionally charged developmental process. Despite considerable research on body image formation, we are left with unanswered questions. What happens in human development that leads to a mental picture of the body that is quite different from the actual physical appearance of the body? Why are some individuals so intensely dissatisfied with their body that they structure their life around changing it, while others with a similar body type express dissatisfaction, wish they would lose 20 pounds, but let it go and get on with their day? Why do some individuals experience shifts in the image of their body while others tend to have a more stable body image? I believe that these types of discrepant perspectives are based on a mental image of the body that was formed by intrapsychic and/or interpersonal experiences strong enough to override the individual's perception of reality.
Figure 12.1 offers a proposed model of the factors that contribute to the development of a negative body schema and its effects on perceptions, cognitions, affect, and behavior. The predominance of unrealistic standards of beauty in the culture, in conjunction with processes such as internalization, identification, and projection, lead to the development of a negative body schema. Once a negative body schema is formed, it affects feelings, thoughts, behaviors and perceptions of the body. A negative body schema serves a powerful function in maintaining body image disturbances because it determines what we notice, attend to, and remember of our experiences.
Researchers agree that body image is multidetermined; in this chapter I