The postwar revival of domesticity led to the media hyping heavier, ultra-feminine images such as Marilyn Monroe, with larger breasts and hips but small waists. This was only a temporary interruption of the century's trend toward increasingly thin bodies as the ideal. Models shrank more throughout the 's and 's.
In these latter decades, models also became fitter, adding muscles and tone to the preferred image. Images of men have followed the same pattern since the 's with male models displaying slightly less fat, much more muscled bodies.
Modern people live media-saturated lives. This constant exposure affects viewers. Studies suggest that the effect is felt in several areas. People compare themselves to images, internalize these idealized images as the norm, and absorb the message that they should judge themselves based on their appearance. This process of comparison, internalization, and acceptance leads to other effects: The effect of media on body image is complex; it is not simply the equation that exposure makes people feel worse about their own bodies.
For one thing, people are not affected equally by exposure to media images. Some react quickly and strongly to beauty images and others are resistant. Some of the difference in reactions to media images has to do with people's individual traits.
People who are more self-conscious, who place more importance on appearance, who are heavier, and who have symptoms of eating disorders are more swayed by these images Tiggemann, Three psychological theories are particularly useful in understanding how media images affect people differently:. Studies have shown that women identify the media as the major source of the perceived social pressure to maintain a thin body image. Their research indicated that media effects occur in three distinct areas: These areas capture the extent to which children are aware that the media promote thinness as an ideal, the extent to which they internalize this ideal as applying to themselves, and the extent to which they feel pressured by the media to conform to the idealized image.
Interestingly enough, Cusumano and Thompson found that these three items vary independently; that is, it is possible to be aware of media images without internalizing them.
Children who internalized media images were most likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies. Changing Body Norms in the Media The ideal body presented by the media has become thinner since the 's, particularly for women. Further Insights Psychological Theories on How Media Affects Body Image The effect of media on body image is complex; it is not simply the equation that exposure makes people feel worse about their own bodies.
Three psychological theories are particularly useful in understanding how media images affect people differently: Social comparison theory was developed by Leon Festinger in the 's. Festinger theorized that to evaluate themselves, people compare themselves to others. Psychologists have expanded this theory and suggested that people compare themselves not only to others in face-to-face interactions, but also to media images.
Self-schema theory says that people develop a sense of self by considering what makes them unique and valuable and arranging these into schemas, which are used to process social encounters.
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