For the first time experts have been able to
eliminate external factors and specifically pinpoint television as having a
direct link with female body ideals.
Our study shows that television is having a
significant impact on what people think is the ideal woman’s body
It is known that the perception of a woman’s
perfect body shape is influenced by images of celebrities and models seen in the
However, in the past, there has been little
attempt to control variables in order to isolate the effects of media exposure
from other cultural and ecological factors.
Scientists examined preferences for body size in
relation to television consumption of men and women in Nicaragua, Central
America. Findings are published in the British Journal of Psychology.
Research involved assessing groups with different
levels of access to Western media. This included people from an urban area, a
village with television access, and a village with little television access.
It was found that the highest Body Mass Index
(BMI) preferences were found in the village with least media access, while those
living in urban areas preferred thinner female bodies.
This study has implications for women’s mental
health and eating disorders in the UK as it provides further evidence of how the
thin ideal promoted by the media creates body image dissatisfaction.
Dr Martin Tovee, a Reader in Visual Cognition at
Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience, co-led the research.
He said: “Our study shows that television is
having a significant impact on what people think is the ideal woman’s body.
“Nicaragua provides a unique opportunity to study
media effects as we were able to minimise variance in potential confounding
factors and focus on the influence of visual media.
“The differences in television access allowed us
to explore how media exposure affects the size and shape women aspire to be.
“Findings revealed that the more television
exposure people receive, the thinner a female body women and men prefer – the
amount of media access directly predicts body ideals.
“Overall, these results strongly implicate
television access in establishing risk factors for body image dissatisfaction.”