If you’ve ever skimmed a fashion magazine or seen a swimsuit ad featuring a smiling, super-thin model and felt unrepresented, you’re not alone. A recent study suggests that when women see average-sized or curvy models in media, it makes them feel better and captures their attention more effectively. As if that wasn’t enough, that damaging comparison you might do when you see a very skinny model doesn’t happen as much when looking at imagery of a more realistic body shape.
The study, which was conducted at Florida State University and published in Communication Monographs, enlisted 49 college-aged women considered to be of average weight, but who wanted to weigh less. The researchers showed the group photos from the Target and Macy’s websites and asked them to categorize the model on her body type, how attractive and pleasant they thought a model was, and how much they compared themselves to her.
The results revealed what many women probably already assumed to be true. When looking at thin models, the participants made more comparisons to their own figures, felt less body satisfaction, and paid less attention while looking at the pics. After the video, they remembered less about the models. On the other hand, when an average or curvy model was shown, they made fewer comparisons, were more satisfied with their own bodies, paid closer attention, and recalled more details about the media.
Considering negative body image can be bad for you mentally and physically, the study authors thought the outcome of their small study was promising. “We found overwhelmingly that there is a clear psychological advantage of depicting the non-ideal body type in media campaigns,” they wrote in the paper. “These findings suggest that incorporating more realistically sized fashion models in the media might have its benefits in terms of improved health outcomes.”
The researchers want to open the study up to a bigger group of people with varied ages, genders, body images, and ethnicities, but these initial findings are a good start. Lead researcher Russell Clayton, PhD told Health that this study can bring awareness to people who want to be thinner that their “ideal” body type might be due to the limited imagery that exists for women.
Do you want to start seeing more average-sized and curvy models while you shop? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photo via Craig Barritt, John Phillips, Bryan Bedder/Getty)