مقایسه برای کمال: چگونه هنجارهای فرهنگی برای ظاهر, مقایسه اجتماعی و خودپنداری را تحت تأثیر قرار می دهد
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|36946||2006||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Body Image, Volume 3, Issue 3, September 2006, Pages 211–227
Abstract Theory and research suggests that cultural norms for appearance present unrealistic standards of beauty which may contribute to women's body dissatisfaction. In Study 1, women described their appearance more negatively than men and made more upward social comparisons about their bodies, but not about other domains. Women also compared more than men with unrealistic targets (e.g., models). In Study 2, we explored the role of cultural norms for appearance in social comparisons with relevant (peer) or irrelevant (model) superior targets. When cultural norms were not salient, participants judged a peer to be more relevant, compared more with the peer, and were more negatively affected by the peer. However, when cultural norms were salient, participants judged a professional model to be equally relevant, compared more with the model and felt worse after exposure to the model. We discuss the powerful role of cultural norms in determining social comparison processes and self-appraisals.
Introduction It is a well-documented finding that most women feel dissatisfied with their bodies (Smolak, 2006). A Canadian health survey revealed that 85–90% of women dislike their bodies (University of Alberta Health Centre, 2001). Women report lower body satisfaction (Aruguete, Yates, & Edman, 2006), are more likely to diet (Polivy & Herman, 1983), and have higher rates of eating disorders (Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-Moore, 1984) than men do. Even women who know they are not overweight often express a desire to lose weight (Connor-Greene, 1988). In fact, females’ dissatisfaction with their bodies is so widespread that some theorists refer to it as a “normative discontent” (Rodin et al., 1984). This dissatisfaction is evident throughout a woman's life span (Pliner, Chaiken, & Flett, 1990), with girls as young as 9 indicating a desire to lose weight (Schur, Sanders, & Steiner, 2000). Cultural norms for thinness and beauty Theorists speculate that cultural norms for thinness and beauty play a large role in women's chronic dissatisfaction with their bodies (Thompson, 1992; Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). They believe that the message that women need to be thin and attractive to be accepted in our society largely comes from the media (Fallon, 1990, Kilbourne, 1994 and Wolf, 1991). Indeed, images of thin women are ubiquitous in the media, and women's magazines contain more messages about physical attractiveness than do men's magazines (e.g., Malkin, Wornian, & Chrisler, 1999). Images and messages conveying cultural norms for weight and appearance are pervasive and arguably very salient to women. The average American woman is 5′4″ tall and weighs 140 pounds, whereas the average American model is 5′11″ tall and weighs 117 pounds (National Eating Disorders Association, 2002). Fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (Smolak, 1996). In addition, the cultural ideal of attractiveness among women has increased in thinness over time (Wiseman, Gray, Mosimann, & Ahrens, 1992), whereas the average weight of North American women has not reflected this trend (Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999). Clearly, the standards of physical attractiveness set by models and celebrities are unrealistic for the average woman to strive for. Although women must fit into a narrowly defined category of physical attractiveness (i.e., young, tall, thin; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004), the cultural norms for men are more flexible and relaxed. There are many different types of men (with different physical characteristics) that are depicted in the media and that women view as attractive (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004). Consequently, although the “ideal male” may be viewed as muscular and athletic, men may fit a variety of categories and still be accepted and viewed as attractive. Thompson and his colleagues have developed a sociocultural model which suggests that the extent to which women internalize the largely unattainable societal standards for thinness will have a big impact on their body satisfaction (Thompson, 1992 and Thompson et al., 1999). For example, Heinberg and Thompson (1995) found that when women were exposed to thin media images, women high in sociocultural internalization became more depressed and more dissatisfied with their bodies whereas women low in sociocultural internalization did not. In addition, Stice, Mazotti, Weibel, and Agras (2000) had women who were high in internalization of the thin-ideal participate in a dissonance-based intervention in which they voluntarily argued against the value of the thin-ideal in our society. They found that these women internalized the ideal to a lesser degree following the intervention and they also showed increases in body satisfaction and decreases in dieting behavior. In sum, theory and research suggest that sociocultural norms for ideal appearance play an important role in people's, particularly women's, assessments of their bodies. Positive illusions The widespread nature of women's negative evaluations of their bodies is particularly striking in the context of research on positive illusions which reveals an equally widespread tendency for people to perceive their attributes in very positive terms (Baumeister, 1998; Taylor & Brown, 1988). For example, research has shown that the majority of people think that they are above-average drivers (Svenson, 1981), the majority of college professors believe they do above-average work (Cross, 1977) and college students judge their personality traits to be superior to the average college student (Alicke, 1985). Although people appear to engage in these self-enhancing processes for most domains in life, we argue that for women, the domain of weight and appearance may be an exception to this general rule. If they self-deprecate rather than self-enhance when describing their weight and appearance, this may contribute to their feelings of body dissatisfaction. Other researchers have suggested that women may avoid making self-enhancing descriptions when describing their weight. Powell, Matacin, and Stuart (2001) asked participants to rate their feelings about their own body and rate their feelings about an average student's body. Men rated themselves higher on body-esteem than they rated other men, but women did not exhibit such self-serving evaluations of their bodies. In addition, although participants generally showed a typical self-enhancement tendency to value their good qualities more than their flaws, women failed to self-enhance in this manner when evaluating their weight. This suggests that people's usually robust ability to protect themselves from threat and to feel good about themselves falls apart for women when they evaluate their bodies. We propose that the strong tendency to self-enhance in most domains (e.g., Baumeister, 1998) is countered by the equally strong message, aimed at women, that their physical appearance will never measure up to the high standards set by the media. It may be that cultural norms clearly communicate to women that even if they do not judge themselves by this standard, others will. This message may render the typical strategies for self-flattery ineffective. Social comparison theory Not only do women's self-evaluations of their weight and appearance counter the literature on self-enhancement, they are also somewhat out of step with the equally large literature on social comparison theory. First, women's reactions are inconsistent with the literature that suggests that people often prefer downward comparisons with inferior others because they are self-protective or self-enhancing (Gibbons & McCoy, 1991; Wills, 1981 and Wood, 1989). For example, Wills argued that people whose self-esteem is threatened choose to socially compare with others who are thought to be worse off. This would suggest that women threatened by unrealistic norms in the media should be particularly motivated to compare themselves to people who are less attractive than they are. Of course, people are not always motivated by self-enhancement concerns; people may choose upward comparisons when motivated by self-improvement goals or lateral comparisons when motivated by affiliation goals (Taylor, Neter, & Wayment, 1995). However, at least for self-enhancement goals, it appears that downward social comparisons are typically preferred (Wilson & Ross, 2000). In addition, social comparison researchers have found that people make comparisons with relevant others, but avoid making comparisons with irrelevant others. For example, an executive may compare her salary with that of a colleague but would avoid comparing her salary with that of a part-time McDonald's employee. The first comparison is rich with diagnostic information about her own salary, whereas the latter comparison is not (Festinger, 1954 and Wood, 1989). When comparison targets are deemed irrelevant, they should not have an impact on the self. Lockwood and Kunda (1997) demonstrated that when people were presented with a threatening, but irrelevant comparison target (e.g., future teachers read about a highly successful accountant), this did not impact their self-views. In addition, they found that people often take poetic license with the perceived relevance of comparison targets, usually in a self-serving manner. When participants were presented with a threatening, but obviously relevant comparison target (i.e., a highly successful student in their year and program), they often went out of their way to describe how the target was irrelevant for the purposes of comparison. According to social comparison theory, an average woman should view professional models and celebrities as irrelevant comparison targets. The fashion industry spends millions of dollars to beautify models for a photo shoot, and the finished product is further perfected with touch-ups and airbrushing (Wolf, 1991). Logically, models and celebrities should be just as irrelevant for an average woman to compare to as Bill Gates would be for the average MacDonald's employee to compare to. Cash, Cash, and Butters (1983) showed some evidence that women may less readily compare to professional models than those who they see as more similar to them. They exposed women to pictures of either attractive models, and manipulated the model's relevance by including the advertising logo (e.g., Calvin Klein) on the image or presenting the model alone without an explicit indication of her status as a professional. They expected that, consistent with social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954), women would only compare with the models that they saw as similar or relevant to them and not to the explicitly “professional” model. They found that when women compared to the attractive “non-professional” model, their self-ratings of attractiveness were lower than when they compared to the attractive professional model. However, others have suggested that professional models are not always deemed irrelevant (Heinberg and Thompson, 1992 and Heinberg and Thompson, 1995). For example, women who are high in body image disturbance or who internalize the sociocultural norms for attractiveness feel badly after comparing to professional models presumably because they judge these models as relevant comparison standards (Heinberg & Thompson, 1995). We argue that just as individual differences may moderate the degree to which people are influenced by professional models, the context in which people are exposed to these images may also matter. Specifically, when messages conveying cultural norms of attractiveness are particularly salient, people will not dismiss the professional model as irrelevant for the purposes of comparison. Models and celebrities are powerful examples of the cultural norms for thinness and beauty in our society. Because the average woman knows that she will be judged according to these cultural norms, images which reflect this norm may not be dismissed as irrelevant. In addition, women may misjudge the attainability of the standard, especially since the cultural norm often implies that weight and appearance are highly controllable. There is some research to support the idea that women engage in social comparison processes that are damaging to the self in the domain of weight and appearance (Irving, 1990 and Martin and Kennedy, 1993; Patrick, Neighbors, & Knee, 2004; Richins, 1991 and Tiggemann and McGill, 2004; Tiggemann & Slater, 2003). In focus-groups and surveys, women report comparing to models and wishing they resembled them (Richins, 1991). Women rate their appearance more negatively after being exposed to an extremely attractive comparison target (Birkeland et al., 2005; Brown, Novick, Lord, & Richards, 1992). In addition, mediation analyses reveal that exposure to media images leads women to engage in more social comparisons, which in turn leads to negative mood and body dissatisfaction (Tiggemann and McGill, 2004). Although it is clear from this research that social comparisons with media images can influence women's self-views, these studies were not designed to systematically compare the degree to which people compare with professional models versus other targets, such as peers. In sum, we propose that there are three major ways in which women's evaluations of their bodies are inconsistent with other literatures in psychology. First, they are far more self-deprecating than the positive illusions literature would suggest. Second, women judge themselves against upward and often irrelevant comparison targets, whereas people often select self-enhancing downward targets and relevant comparisons. Finally, women overestimate the relevance of threatening comparison targets, while the past literature suggests that people typically downgrade the relevance of threatening comparisons. Overview of studies The purpose of the first study is to investigate whether women's appearance comparisons might contribute to their feelings of body dissatisfaction. In this study, men and women described their weight and body shape in an open-ended fashion. They also described their social skills as a non-appearance control. We examine the valence of people's self-descriptions and the direction of their social comparisons. We also examine choice of comparison targets to determine people's preference for relevant and realistic versus unrealistic targets (e.g., peers versus models). This study allows us to examine how men and women spontaneously describe their bodies in the absence of controlled laboratory stimuli. We expect a typical self-enhancing pattern of results when participants describe their social skills, for both women and men (Baumeister, 1998). In contrast, we expect that relative to men, women will be more negative and more likely to compare with superior others when evaluating their bodies. Finally, we expect that females will be more likely to spontaneously compare to unrealistic targets such as models. We argue that this gender difference does not reflect any qualities inherent to women, but rather occurs because of the pervasiveness of cultural norms for appearance that apply predominantly to women (Thompson et al., 1999). In Study 2, we want to experimentally test the proposal that gender differences in evaluation of appearance arise because of differences in the salience of cultural norms for appearance which lead women to measure themselves against irrelevant, upward comparison targets and diminishes their evaluations of appearance. In everyday life women are bombarded with messages about cultural norms for appearance to a greater extent than are men. However, under circumstances where men and women are equally confronted with messages reflecting these norms, we expect that the “natural” gender difference will be attenuated or eliminated. Therefore, in this study, we manipulate exposure to cultural norms pertaining to appearance, then examine men and women's reactions to either relevant or irrelevant superior comparison targets.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Conclusions In sum, our research demonstrates the ways in which women's self-appraisals are atypical when it comes to weight and appearance (Study 1): They describe themselves more negatively than men and compare with upward, even irrelevant, targets. One reason for this gender difference may be the pervasiveness of cultural norms directed at women. When norms were made equally salient for men and women, both genders were influenced by irrelevant comparison targets, reversing the effect when norms were not salient. Taken together, these studies represent a snapshot of real life differences in men and women's body appraisals as well as a systematic experimental investigation of the role of cultural norms in these appraisals. It is important to note that our manipulation of cultural norms did not communicate the legitimacy of these norms. In other words, participants were not told that they should believe in these standards for beauty. They were simply made very aware of what norms existed in society. Hence, norm salience alone is enough to influence people's appraisal processes. This may have important implications for those who explicitly judge the norms to be illegitimate. It may be that disagreeing with the norms will not always be enough to make one immune to their effects. There may be social contexts that communicate the cultural norms powerfully enough to influence even those who do not endorse them. Regardless of their own personal opinion, many people are painfully aware of the standards held by society against which they could be measured. This awareness alone may be enough to make people vulnerable to the norms’ harmful effects.