Experimental exposure to idealized media portrayals of women is thought to induce social comparisons in female viewers and thereby to be generally detrimental to female viewers’ satisfaction with their own appearance. Through meta-analysis, the present paper examines the impact of moderators of this effect, some identified and updated from a prior meta-analysis and some that have hitherto received little attention. Participants’ pre-existing appearance concerns and the processing instructions participants were given when exposed to media portrayals were found to significantly moderate effect sizes. With regard to processing instructions, a novel and counter-intuitive pattern was revealed; effect sizes were smallest when participants were instructed to focus on the appearance of women in media portrayals, and largest when participants processed the portrayals on a distracting, non-appearance dimension. These results are interpreted through a framework that suggests that social comparisons are automatic processes, the effects of which can be modified through conscious processing.
Body Image – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2009
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