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The impact of idealized images of female beauty on women's self-concept: Who does it affect and when?

Ahrona Eleanor Chand, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The present research identified two critical factors that explain differential reactions to idealized media images among appearance focused women versus non-appearance focused women: (a) awareness of comparing the self to idealized media images and, (b) control over self-evaluative responses following potential threat. When the response measure was controlled or deliberate, I predicted that appearance focused women would describe themselves as less attractive and would express more sadness compared to non-appearance focused women in response to both subliminal and supraliminal exposure to the idealized media images. However, I expected that a situation that forced women to confront the potential effect of the images on the self would erase any differences in attractiveness and sadness between the two groups of women. When the response measure was automatic or implicit, I expected that appearance focused women would exhibit positive self-regard only in response to subliminal exposure to idealized media images, whereas non-appearance focused women would express positive self-regard regardless of awareness of exposure. Study 1 provided a test of the main predictions for appearance focused women versus non-appearance focused women, and Study 2 attempted a replication using appearance focused women only. Study 2 also incorporated a more rigorous methodology by counterbalancing the order in which participants received the dependent measures. In Study 1, consistent with the main predictions, I found that awareness of attractive primes and control over self-evaluative responses determined the consequences of upward social comparisons for appearance focused women and non-appearance focused women. Study 2 replicated the self-enhancement effect such that appearance focused women expressed somewhat greater implicit self-esteem in response to subliminal primes compared to no primes. However, self-enhancement only occurred when implicit self-esteem was measured first, before the explicit measures. In order to further test the validity of this new theoretical framework, future research should attempt to replicate these findings as well as test the generalizability of these effects.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Social psychology|Mass media

Recommended Citation

Chand, Ahrona Eleanor, "The impact of idealized images of female beauty on women's self-concept: Who does it affect and when?" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242306.