Effects of Film on Body Image
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
Home |
The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
SPAINHOUR, A. A. (1999). Effects of Film on Body Image. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 21, 2017 .

Effects of Film on Body Image
AMBER A. SPAINHOUR
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
This study was designed to look at the effects of film on body image. In the past decades, a large amount of research has been devoted to examining the connection between various aspects of the media and body image. The 129 participants were students in introductory psychology courses at a medium-sized, public college in northwestern Missouri. Two film clips of dancing from the popular entertainment movies Grease and Hairspray were used. One clip featured a slender actress while the other clip featured a heavy actress. After viewing one of the film clips, participants filled out a 25-item questionnaire called the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale. A Pearson r correlation was calculated to determine if there was a correlation between the participants’ answers on the first 24 items dealing with satisfaction about specific body parts and their rating on the last item about their overall body appearance. The results were significant (r (127) = .77, p < .001). There was a correlation between the two. A 2 x 2 ANOVA was calculated to determine if viewing the film clip had an effect on the individual’s body image. Significant relationships were found for the movie (F (1, 125) = 6.06, p = .015), gender (F (1, 125) = 7.66, p = .006), and the movie and gender together (F (1, 125) = 4.79, p = .031). The film clip, the participants’ gender, and the two together had an effect on body image. There is a distinct relationship between the effects of film and the individual’s body image which seems consistent with the existing research regarding the effects of the media on body image. The experimental environment is not the typical place where the participants would view these movies, but the results would almost certainly have been the same had the experiment been performed in a more natural movie watching environment. In future research, it would be interesting to see if viewing a film clip that points out how the media distorts body image could make a positive impact on the individual`s body image.

INTRODUCTION
Almost everyone has, at one time or another, wished that they could change something about themselves. For many people, the desired change involves something about their appearance. Some wish they could change their waistline. For others, it is their hair or their legs or their nose or their skin. What is this focus that people have on their body parts and their body as a whole? It is their body image. Body image is something that everyone has. It affects the young and the old. Both males and females are influenced by body image. It impacts the poor and the rich. Just how important is body image in our society? Today, in the Western culture it seems that for many people, young women in particular, looking good is an extremely significant part of their lives (Barlow & Durand, 1995). For some, their happiness and self-worth come to be largely determined by their body image. Whether or not their body size, body shape, measurements, and so on match the society’s ideals decide how satisfied they are with themselves. Sometimes this body image becomes even more important then one’s health and well-being. Where does one’s body image come from? Research has suggested that biological, psychological, and social factors play an important role in the development of one’s body image (Barlow & Durand, 1995). However, it appears that social factors play the key role.Barlow and Durand (1995) report that societal standards of beauty can change dramatically over time. Today, in the Western culture being thin is considered the ideal body size for women. However, this has not always been the case. In the 19th century large women were thought of as the image of beauty. The ideal in the 1920s was similar to what it is today. At that time, the slender look was achieved through the clothing styles and fashions. Then in the 1950s, more voluptuous figures like Marilyn Monroe’s were seen as desirable. Since that time the ideal body shape for women has become gradually thinner. Unfortunately, for many people the ideal body of their times is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. This makes them feel dissatisfied with their appearance. In other words, their body image is negative. What impact does this negative body image have on someone’s life? It can lead to things like dieting and exercise. These are of course two things that can be quite beneficial. A person may learn to eat a healthier, more well-balanced diet. They may become physically fit. However, these two things, diet and exercise, also have the potential to be deadly. A person might develop such problems as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. A negative body image can also lead to social isolation, problems at work, depression, unnecessary cosmetic surgery, and even suicide (Philips, 1991). In extreme cases individuals suffering with a negative body image develop body dysmorphic disorder. This is a preoccupation with some imagined defect in appearance in a normal appearing person; or, if a slight physical anomaly is present, the concern is grossly exaggerated. Associated features of body dysmorphic disorder include frequent mirror checking or the avoidance of mirrors. Often there is a great concern that others are looking at, talking about, or mocking their imagined defect. Those with body dysmorphic disorder attempt to camouflage their “defect” with makeup, hair, clothing, and so forth. They constantly seek reassurance from others that they look normal, but to no avail. It seems that a great number of people would qualify as having at least a mild form of this devastating disorder. Almost everyone can pick out at least one body feature that they would like to change. Often, this flaw is evident only to its owner. A great number of people would have to admit to checking their appearance in a mirror six times before they left the house on any given day. Almost everyone has sought reassurance from someone else about their appearance. Why is it that so many people in our society are insecure about or unhappy with their body image?What social factors contribute to the development of such a negative body image? Many researchers believe that the media plays an important part. We are constantly bombarded with images of the ideal beauty. Television programs, commercials, billboards, magazine articles, advertisements, and movies convey pictures of what beauty should look like. One study analyzing 4,294 television commercials found them teeming with attractiveness-based messages (Downs and Harrison, 1985). The influence of the media in the development of body images seems greater for women than men. Silverstein, Perdue, Person, and Kelly (1986) demonstrated the standard of bodily attractiveness as portrayed on television and in magazines is more slender and more diet oriented for women than for men. Another study by Heinberg and Thompson (1995) found that female participants who had a high body image disturbance became even more dissatisfied with their body image after viewing television commercials that expressed thinness and attractiveness. Further research involving the use of slides of fashion models taken from popular women’s magazines resulted in a similar finding (Posavac, Posavac, & Posavac, 1998). They discovered that female participants who have low body satisfaction initially were even more unhappy with their body after viewing these media images.The impact that television commercials and magazine photographs have on the individual’s body image has been demonstrated. What impact do the films that people view for entertainment or pleasure have on their body image? That is what this study examined. The purpose of this research project was to look at the effects of entertainment films on the individual’s body image.


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
There were 129 male and female participants in this study. All of the participants were students at a medium-sized, public college in a city with a population of about 72,000 people located in the northwestern part of Missouri. The participants were enrolled in introductory psychology courses at this school.

MATERIALS
In this study, there was a short film clip of a dancing scene from the movie Hairspray. This film clip featured Ricki Lake, a heavy actress. The study also used a similar film clip from the movie Grease featuring a slender actress, Olivia Newton-John. A 25-item questionnaire called the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale was given to the participants (see Appendix). The survey used a Likert-type scale with six choices ranging from extremely satisfied to extremely dissatisfied. The first 24 items asked the participants to rate how satisfied they were with how specific parts of their body look. The last question had participants rate how satisfied they were with their overall body appearance.

PROCEDURE
The study took place in April. Each of the 129 participants was asked to watch one short film clip and then fill out a questionnaire. Seventy of the participants were assigned to view the film clip of a heavy actress dancing in the movie Hairspray. Fifty-nine participants were assigned to watch a similar clip with a slender actress from the movie Grease dancing. After viewing the film clip, the participants completed the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale.


RESULTS
A Pearson r correlation was done to determine if there was a correlation between the participants score on the first 24 items of the questionnaire and the last question. A significant relationship was found (r (127) = .77, p < .001). There was a correlation between the participants` ratings on the first 24 items and their rating for the 25th item about their overall body appearance. A 2 x 2 ANOVA was used to determine if the film clip had an effect on the individual`s body image. A significant main effect was found for the movie (F (1, 125) = 6.06, p = .015). A significant main effect was also found for gender (F (1, 125) = 7.66, p = .006). A significant interaction was found for the movie and gender together (F (1, 125) = 4.79, p = .031). The film images did have an effect on the individual’s body image. Those participants that viewed a clip from Grease were less satisfied with their body image than those who watched Hairspray. The participants` gender had an effect on their body image with female participants being less satisfied with their body image than the male participants were. The film clips and the participants` gender together had an effect on their body image. While there was not a large difference between the scores of the male participants who viewed the Hairspray clip and those that saw the film clip from Grease, the female participants who watched the clip from Grease rated themselves significiantly less satisfied with their body image than the females who saw the Hairspray film clip. The mean scores of both genders for each movie can be see in Figure 1. Viewing these film clips did have an impact on self-reported body image distortion especially for females.


DISCUSSION
This study clearly found that there is a distinct relationship between the effects of film and the individual`s body image. Furthermore, it shows a strong relationship between the effects of gender and body image. The female participants were much less satisfied with their bodies than the male participants were. This study even demonstrates that gender and film together have an effect on the individual`s body image. While there was not a large difference seen between the men that viewed Hairspray and those that saw Grease, the woman who watched the film clip from Grease rated themselves significantly lower than the woman who watched the Hairspray clip. These finding seem consistent with the research mentioned earlier regarding body image.This study does have certain limitations. Since Grease and Hairspray are popular movies, many participants may have already been familiar with these scenes and actresses. Therefore, their perceptions would already be developed. However, the results would most likely have been the same even if the actresses and films were unknown to the participants. In addition, the self-reports could be biased. However, self-report is probably the best way to measure the individual`s body image. A third limitation is that the participants viewed the film in an environment in which they would not normally watch popular entertainment movies. However, the results would almost certainly have been the same had this study been performed in a more typical movie watching setting like a movie theater.Given the amount of attention that the media receives in our society, it seems reasonable for it to be quite influential in our lives. This research indicates that a link exists between the movies a person watches and how they view their body image--at least temporarily. If the media has the power to influence the individual’s body image in negative way, it would seem the media could also be used to improve the individual’s perceptions of their body image. Future research might have some participants view a film that makes them aware of how the media distorts one`s body image and then answer the Body Parts Satisfaction Scale. These scores could then be compared to a control group to determine whether viewing a film of this type effects the individual`s body image.The findings of this study are particularly troubling considering the film clips the participants watched were only about three and one-half minutes long. Today the average individual will see much more than three and one-half minutes of media images each day. These images can often be quite harmful. These media ideals often distort the way the individual views and feels about their own body image. Therefore, it is imperative that we demand the media to present us with more realistic, positive images of beauty in order to avoid damaging effects for the individual`s body image.


REFERENCES
Barlow, D.H., & Durand, V.M. (1995). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. Downs, A.C., & Harrison, S.K. (1985). Embarrassing age spots or just plain ugly? Physical attractiveness stereotyping as an instrument of sexism on American television commercials. Sex Roles, 13, 9-19. Heinberg, L.J., & Thompson, J.K. (1995). Body image and televised images of thinness and attractiveness: A controlled laboratory investigation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 14, 325-338. Philips, K.A. (1991). Body dysmorphic disorder: The distress of imagined ugliness. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1138-1149. Posavac, H.D., Posavac, S.S., & Posavac, E.J. (1998). Exposure to media images of female attractiveness and concern with body weight among young women. Sex Roles, 38, 187-201. Silverstein, B., Perdue, L., Peterson, B., & Kelly, E. (1986). The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women. Sex Roles, 14, 519-532.


APPENDIX
How satisfied are you with your  __________ ?

1. Height A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

2. Weight A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

3. Hair A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

4. Eyes A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied 5. Ears A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

6. Nose A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

7. Mouth A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

8. Teeth A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

9. Voice A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

10. Chin A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

11. Complexion A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

12. Overall facial attractiveness A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

13. Shoulders A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

14. Chest (males), Breasts (females) A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

15. Arms A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

16. Hands A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

17. Size of abdomen A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

18. Buttocks (seat) A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

19. Size of sex organs A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

20. Appearance of sex organs A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied 21. Hips (upper thighs) A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

22. Legs and ankles A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

23. Feet A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied 24. General muscle tone or development A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

25. Overall body appearance A. Extremely satisfied B. Quite satisfied C. Somewhat satisfied D. Somewhat dissatisfied E. Quite dissatisfied F. Extremely dissatisfied

Gender _________Age ________


Figure 1

Submitted 5/4/99 9:37:56 AM
Last Edited 5/4/99 1:38:49 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

Rated by 1 users. Average Rating:
Users who logon can rate manuscripts and write reviews.

© 2017 National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse. All rights reserved. The National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse is not responsible for the content posted on this site. If you discover material that violates copyright law, please notify the administrator. This site receives money through the Google AdSense program when users are directed to useful commercial sites. We do not encourage or condone clicking on the displayed ads unless you have a legitimate interest in the advertisement.