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The Media and Body Image

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The Media and Body Image

 

Abstract

 

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.

 

Methods

 

Participants

 

        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.

 

Measures

 

        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.

 

Procedure

 

        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.

 

Results

 

        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.

 

Discussion

 

        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

status.

 

        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.

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