The Media and Body Image
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The Media and Body Image
This research examined the media and how it affects fitness and body image.
This was assessed by collecting data from surveys taken by three groups of ten
high school students, five of each sex. Two of the three groups were exposed to
different media packages, one depicted images of unnaturally thin individuals,
the other depicted athletic figures, while the third group was exposed to no
prior data. The results indicate the students attitudes towards social fitness
views and self-acceptance. It was my hypothesis that a correlation between
media and the fitness concept will be found but the idea of a personal body
image will remain fixed as body image is a determined part of one's psyche. A
significant correlation was discovered between those who viewed the thin package
and their attitudes on social fitness. However a low score in the self-
acceptance scale in all three groups suggests a low self-concept within all
participants. This supports my statement that there would be a connection
between the fitness concept and the media packages as well as a constant self-
concept maintained by all participants.
In assessing personal attitudes it is often important to measure not only what
an individual feels towards others but also his/herself. Prior research
indicates this is especially important when measuring attitudes towards physical
issues. It has been found that opposing views may be held simultaneously by
individuals in regards to themselves and others. Also concern for how a
response will reflect upon his/herself may negate an individual expressing his
or her true attitudes. This research sought to assess the attitudes of high
school students towards fitness and body image in the presence of different
physical media icons. By monitoring the individuals response to both a third
person scale and a personal scale, true attitudes can be assumed. In this study,
the different groups were the independent variable, here in described as Group A,
those exposed to the thin images, Group B, those exposed to athletic images, and
Group C, those exposed to no images or the control group, whereas the groups
score was the dependent variable. The surveys were distributed to thirty
students, ten in each group, five of each sex. The dependent variable, in the
Social Fitness Attitudes Scale, reflects the individuals attitude towards
fitness in society and in a dating atmosphere. The higher the individuals score
the more they are influenced by society, with a score of 46 being the accepted
indication of society influence. In the Self Acceptance Scale, the lower the
individuals score the lower their self concept with scores between 36-110
indicating low self acceptance, 111-150 average self acceptance, and 151-
indicating high self acceptance. Throughout the use of both a general survey
and a specific survey, true attitudes of students towards fitness and body
image in the light of society have been recorded.
Participants of this study were students of F.J. Brennan High School.
For the purposes of this study, 30 participants were randomly chosen, creating 3
groups of 10 with 5 members of each sex. Consent was obtained from the
individual before being surveyed. Anonymity of the participants was maintained
by using no identifying information to make the comparisons.
The study employed the use of 2 surveys and 1 sheet of non identifying
information. The first survey, Social Fitness Attitudes Scale, was used to
study the individuals views on fitness in society and in a dating atmosphere.
The second survey, Self Acceptance Scale, was used to illustrate the
participants personal views on confidence in regards to others. These were
followed by a brief sheet which asked for optional statistical information such
as age and fitness status.
Prior to the testing Group A was exposed to a package of images
reinforcing a thin body, Group B was exposed to a package of images which
reinforced an athletic build, whereas Group C was exposed to no such packages at
any time during the survey. Once the testing was complete each participant was
debriefed as to what the data would be used for and what each survey would
reflect. With the surveys scored using their assigned keys computer analysis
was used to obtain an Independent Sample t Test.
Each survey was scored with its assigned scoring key, as depicted in
Psychology for Living. The scores revealed by both Groups A and B show
attitudes toward fitness influenced by society, A- t (18) = -4.330, p > 0.05, B-
t (18) = -1.732, p > 0.05, with Group A scoring 50 and Group B scoring a 47 out
of a possible 54 with 46 and higher being the accepted values of those strongly
affected by the media. Group C scored 45, slightly under the value of those
affected strongly by the media. This shows that it is not uncommon for students
to be affected by society strongly. In terms of self acceptance, A- t (18) = -
6.062, p > 0.05, Groups A and C scored below 110, respectively 109 and 102, this
score shows evidence of " little self-acceptance and self-confidence." Group B,
t (18) = -11.258, p > 0.05, showed a score of 115, a low but average score (111-
150) which suggests a lack in self-acceptance in some areas while self-
acceptance in others.
Overall the results indicated a correlation between the images of thin
media icons and poor fitness attitudes, and a minor relationship between
depicted athletic images and poor fitness attitudes as well. It was also found
that in general there is a strong influence of the media upon the average
student. In terms of self-acceptance, all three groups scored in the lower end
of the scale allowing Group B to escape marginally from low self-confidence
In general, these results can be accounted for in terms of age and the
maturing process. During adolescence and particularly during high school, the
individual is forming their own permanent self-concept which includes one's body
image. Therefore the control groups high score within the Social Fitness
Attitudes Scale can be attributed to adolescents need to rely on media
interpretations since they are in the midst of creating their own
interpretations. This does not, however, dispute the fact that the score for
those exposed to media packages was higher than that of the control group.
In regards to the Self-Concept Scale, the low scores of all three groups
as well as the close proximity of each of the scores can also be attributed to
the adolescent creating their own self-concept for the first time. Since the
student would be unsure of themselves due to this stage of adolescence it would
appear that the participant had a very poor self-image and low self-confidence.
Another factor in the Self-Concept Scale scores may be that it has been
proven that the average person is bombarded with 1 000 advertising messages a
day, and with the increased use of the human form in advertisements, a general
feeling of unworthiness may prevail.
These results indicate that, at least in high school students, media
images and society play a significant role in shaping one's attitudes towards
fitness and body image. It is also indicated that among the participants a low
self-concept, and self-confidence can be seen.