The effect of the selling beauty. Figures and a piece of science.

I would like to continue the discussion taken part in my previous post, where I mostly presented my vision of the problem. Today I’m going to give some information about airbrushing and then turn to some research findings on the ‘ideal body’ issue.

According to the Advertising Association,
76% of women want to see images that are natural,
84%  believe that is not acceptable to edit the way models look at adverts and
48% are less likely to trust campaigns where airbrushing is used.

Have a look at this clip on airbrushing and specifically banned Lancom campaign:

You can find more extra information on this banned campaign in BBC website by following this link:

Now I want to concentrate on the ‘ideal body’ problem.

The images of glamorous slender girls we are exposed to every day affect our cognitive system are make changes in our body-schema. With regard to research conducted by Legenbauer et al. (2008), participants with eating disorders (ED) evaluated themselves as much heavier than participants from the control group, even though the BMI did not differ between those groups. What is more, after watching adverts showing female appearance the ED group’s chosen ideal got thinner and significantly underweight. It was also proved that commercials containing ‘ideal’ pictures trigger not only distortion of body schema and self-dissatisfaction, but also ‘self-destructive’ behaviour, leading, for example, to eating disorders (Legenbauer et al., 2008).

There is an interesting approach named ‘third person effect'(TPE) consisting in that women’s idea of what is ‘ideal’ body is influenced by their beliefs how men are affected by media representation of female beauty. This concept put attention on   ‘perceived media effects on others relative to self’ (Choi et al., 2008, 148 p.).  The idea of this concept: 1) we think other people are more influenced by mass media than we are; 2) this belief leads to behavioural outcome (Choi et al., 2008). It was shown that the women’s prototype of attractive female figure is thinner than men’s actual preference (Fallon & Rozin, 1985; Demarest & Allen, 2000; cited by Choi et al., 2008).

The body dissatisfaction in many cases leads to depression. There are some findings showing the bind between depression and eating disorders. According to McCarthy:

(1) depression is more prevalent in women than in men; the female to male ratio is
typically reported as 2 : 1 (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987);
(2) this sex ratio first appears at puberty; before
puberty depression is twice as common in boys, after puberty it is twice as common in girls (Rutter
et al., 1986);
(3) this sex ratio is only reported in western societies; it is not reported in rural,
non-modern societies (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987);
(4) the rate of depression has been increasing,
especially among young females (Klerman, 1988);
(5) the age of onset for depression is younger
in the present generation than for older generations (Klerman, 1988).
Four of these trends are parallel to trends in eating disorders:
(1) the majority (95%) of eating
disorder patients are female (DSM III R, 1987);
(2) eating disorders emerge at puberty (DSM III
R, 1987);
(3) eating disorders are present in western countries and absent in non-western countries
(Garner and Garfinkel, 1980);
(4) the incidence of eating disorders has risen over the past 20 yr
(Silverstein et al., 1986)’ (McCarthy, 1990, p. 205).

So there is some reason to think about it in a more serious way. While the media representation of beaty is not going to be change, we face such severe problems…

To be continued…





5 responses

  1. The “beautification” is such an interesting topic!
    Actually, it was shown that men like less make-up on women than women put on themselves. One theory suggests that a whiter face in the T-Zone is associated with a female face; rosy cheeks giving a healthy touch (Cash et. al, 2010). But what is the reason for women to cover up their faces with make-up, often changing towards a darker skin colour and an unnatural look?
    Is it self-confidence, competition with other women, a sign of emancipation, or simply the media representation of beauty? I have not found any research on this, but I am sure the outcome of this research would not be in the interest of the billion dollar beauty industry…

  2. In the response to your point about eating disorders being more prevalent in non-western cultures, it does seem that western cultures do have a massive psychological effect, especially on youth. Becker (2004) found that after the introduction of western media to Fiji, native young women reported the beginnings of weight and body shape unhappiness and bulimic behaviours, which were not present before. This does highlight that most can be vulnerable to the effects of media on body image and is something that is important to talk about with children.

  3. I find this an intriguing subject. I wrote a blog touching on the same topic a few weeks ago, in which I found that men have very similar if not borderline identical attitudes to this idea of a ‘perfect/ideal’ person (Page & Allen 1995; Williams & Currie 2000.) From what I have read, it seems women don’t generally don’t like advertisements with ‘ideal’ aka photo-shopped women, and men don’t like advertisements with ‘ideal’ men. I realise that most of the advertisements that use these ‘shopped’ images are for beauty related products and that there is a certain level of aspiration involved in the people who use the products. But I think it has gone too far at this stage. Everyone realises the real people don’t look like they do in the posters, yet the companies seem to keep churning out these alien-esque images of skeletal women with ‘perfect’ skin and expect us to find it believable or even attractive? Do the marketing executives in these companies know how their advertisements are perceived? Maybe we hold these opinions because we are doing consumer psychology, or maybe the public as a whole are just catching on. I am a human man, and I like a woman to look like a human woman. Who eats on a regular basis.

  4. Really interesting blog and brings up a topic that needs addressing in todays society. Despite people not liking advertisements which depict the ‘ideal body’ for men and women, a lot of adverts especially ones aiming at women still play on this concept of the ‘ideal body’. The question is why? Why keep using these types of adverts which all insinuate the same message? I think it maybe down to keeping the consumer in a state of having to better themselves, and I believe this effects women more than men. Macrae (2011) found that almost a third of women would sacrifice a year of their life to achieve an ‘ideal body’ weight, and in a more recent survey half of the women said that the pressure to look good was the hardest thing about being a women. This just demonstrates the power the media has on body image. This really does need to be addressed as the pressure to look good will takes it toll on younger generations which are encouraged through media to be a skinny as possible, and as stated in the blog this is not the body image men go for.

  5. I find all the above comments and this blog very interesting because it certainly is the million dollar question why the advertisements have such a large impact on the consumer. This can be negatively impacting or positively but nevertheless it has an impact. I feel lady feel better when they look good and attract the men and for this reason they try hard to loose weight and put so much make-up to look better from their own perspective before the man give any complement. I will for sure look into this subject more in the future for my personal satisfaction.

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