Women are more likely to notice and remember average and plus-size models in the media compared to thin models, according to a new study at Florida State University.
In fact, just seeing plus-size models tends to boost women’s mental health.
The study measured psychophysiological responses — the interaction between the mind and the body — to examine how women respond, both psychologically and physiologically, to models of different sizes.
“By measuring psychophysiological responses during image exposure, we were able to gain insights into the real-time cognitive and emotional responses that unfold when women are exposed to different-size media fashion models,” said lead author Dr. Russell Clayton, assistant professor in the Florida State University School of Communication, director of the Cognition and Emotion Lab.
Clayton conducted the study with Dr. Jessica Ridgway, assistant professor in the Department of Retail, Merchandising and Product Development, and Joshua Hendrickse, a doctoral student in the Florida State University School of Communication.
For the study, the researchers recruited 49 college-age women, all of whom indicated they wanted to be thinner, and showed them various images of thin, average, and plus-size fashion models on a TV screen. The project recorded participants’ psychophysiological responses as the women looked at the various models.
After looking at each image, participants answered questions about their body satisfaction and how much they had compared themselves to the models. The findings revealed that participants had very different responses to thin and plus-size models.
When thin models were on screen, the participants made more comparisons, paid less attention, and remembered less about the models. Participants also came away from the experiment with less body satisfaction, which can diminish psychological health.
However, when average and plus-size models were on screen, research participants made fewer comparisons, paid more attention, and remembered more about those models. Participants also reported higher levels of body satisfaction.
“We found overwhelmingly that there is a clear psychological advantage when the media shows more realistic body types than the traditional thin model,” Ridgway said.
The researchers note that the findings offer new evidence for improving women’s health and body positivity.
“Women made fewer social comparisons, felt increased body satisfaction, paid more attention to and remembered average and plus-size models. Therefore, it might be a useful persuasive strategy for media producers to employ plus-size models if the goal of the campaign is to capture attention while also promoting body positivity,” said Clayton.
The study is published in the journal Communication Monographs.
Source: Florida State University