Models' Photos May Spur Mixed Messages About Body Image

Viewing 'ideal' bodies can be deflating but still inspire self-improvement, study says

THURSDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News) -- Even though it may make them feel flawed, people will look at images of male and female models if they believe they can achieve the same look, says a new study.

The Ohio State University researchers noted that previous studies have found that people who are unhappy with their physical shape feel even more dissatisfied when they see photos of people with "ideal" bodies.

"So you have to wonder: Why do we still buy those magazines and watch those television programs when they should just make us more dissatisfied?" Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, an associate professor of communication, said in a university news release.

The current study examined how long 169 young adults looked at pictures of models in an online magazine. Those who were unhappy with their appearance spent less time looking at the photos, unless the images were surrounded by articles that suggested the reader could do things to help them look like the models.

"A lot of these magazines and television programs will tell you that if you go on this diet, or do this exercise program, you will lose weight or gain muscle," Knobloch-Westerwick said.

"That's the key. People will view these photos if they feel like they can achieve this ideal. In that case, these models with the ideal bodies can serve as a source of inspiration to improve one's own body shape," she added.

The study is published in a recent issue of the journal Media Psychology.

More information

WomensHealth.gov has more about body image.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, March 14, 2011

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