Media's portrayal of the "ideal image" with emphasis on the "thin ideal" and its effects on women's body image

Women are bombarded with reminders of what they should look like to be considered attractive. The ‘ideal body image” represented by the media which emphasizes thinness, youth, and height is difficult for the average woman to attain. Past research has shown that exposure to media images representing the “ideal body” has negative effects on women’s body image, self-esteem, mood, and can promote the development of eating disorders. The present study examined how the ideal female body image portrayed by the media impacts the way women feel about themselves in terms of body dissatisfaction, mood, self-esteem, and social comparison. Additionally, because past research has shown that the inclusion of warning label helps ameliorate the known negative effects of exposure to such images, this study explored the effects of warning labels on women’s body dissatisfaction, mood, self-esteem, and social comparison. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: digitally altered without a warning label media image condition, digitally altered with a warning label media image condition, unaltered media image condition, or neutral condition. Overall, it was found that there were no significant effects of media image condition on measures of body dissatisfaction, negative affect, self-esteem, and social comparison. However, women who viewed digitally altered images with a warning label had significantly lower positive affect scores than those who viewed neutral images. Additionally, findings revealed that the use of warning labels does not reduce the negative effects associated with exposure to thin idealized media images. Although the present study did not demonstrate the profound negative effects of viewing the “ideal body image” found in most previous studies, further research is warranted given the importance of this topic.