Effects of Magazine Advertisements on College Females' Drive for Thinness,
Self-Esteem, and Body Satisfaction
Carrie L. Bennett
This paper is based on the author's undergraduate Honors thesis.
Dr. S. Shyam Sundar
Previous research on the relationship between media consumption and body
image disturbance (body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness) and self-esteem
suggests that women who internalize, or accept the thin ideal presented
in the media, develop cognitive dissonance between actuality and fantasy.
Yet, other research indicates women protect body image disturbance and
self-esteem by regarding the beauty of models in advertisements as unrealistic.
The purpose of this study is to examine if popular magazine advertisements
can affect college females’ feelings and perceptions of self.
Based on social comparison theory (i.e., people are compelled to judge
their own opinions and abilities by making social evaluations with other
people), we proposed three hypotheses, in order to test for the two conflicting
H1: Participants exposed to ideal body images will experience a higher
drive for thinness, lower self-esteem, and greater body dissatisfaction
compared to participants who view images of counter-ideal bodies.
H2: The greater the level of internalization of ideal advertisements,
the higher the drive for thinness, and lower the self-esteem and body
H3: Discounting for the beauty of the model will be will be negatively
associated with drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction, and positively
associated with self-esteem.
Sixty undergraduate female students were randomly assigned to one of
three conditions in a between-subjects experiment. First, ten advertisements
were selected from popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour and
Maxim. Subsequently, a computer program was used to modify the female
bodies to create the three conditions for the study: ideal body image
advertisements, counter ideal body image advertisements and no body image
advertisements (female body was removed). The dependent variables (drive
for thinness, self-esteem and body dissatisfaction) were included in a
questionnaire administered to participants immediately after participants’
exposure to the advertisements.
A factor analysis of the dependent measures scales items yielded five
factors labeled “negative self-perception,” “body dissatisfaction,”
“commitment to thinness,” “self-esteem,” and “internalization.”
H1: Partially supported. Consistent with H1, participants exposed to
ideal images reported greater negative self-perception than those who
were exposed to counter ideal images. In addition, those who viewed the
ideal advertisements reported higher body dissatisfaction compared to
those who saw counter ideal body images. However, inconsistent with H1,
participants who viewed the images of the ideal body did not express a
significantly different commitment to thinness than those who viewed images
of the counter ideal body. In addition, participants who saw ideal advertising
images did not express a significantly different level of self-esteem
than those who saw the counter ideal advertising images.
H2: Partially supported. Internalization had a main effect on both negative
self-perception and body dissatisfaction, such that internalization led
to more negative self-perception and body dissatisfaction than non-internalization.
Internalization also had main effects on commitment to thinness and on
H3: Supported. Commitment to thinness, body dissatisfaction and negative
self-perception were positively related to internalization. Self-esteem
was negatively related to internalization, such that as internalization
increased, self-esteem decreased.
This study represents an attempt to reconcile the differing research
findings on body image disturbance. Results from this study found evidence
that advertising does adversely influence body dissatisfaction and negative
self-perceptions. It also evidenced that when participants internalized
the ideal advertisements, they experienced significantly higher body dissatisfaction,
and negative self-perception than those who discount. Since, body image
disturbance is a prevalent phenomenon in Western society and the consequences
of perpetuating the thin ideal are severe, it is important to focus on
prevention and on educating pre-adolescents, adolescents, and college
students about media images.