How images of wealth and success can negatively shape body image
The advert for a facial cream shows a slender woman with perfect skin in an exotic holiday location. How does it make you feel?
Research has already shown that exposure to images of ultra thin models has a negative impact on women’s perception of their own bodies. New research reveals how models displaying the trappings of wealth and success leads to a greater dissatisfaction for some women.
University of Sussex psychologist Eleni-Marina Ashikali led a study in which women were shown images of either luxury items (mobile phones, champagnes, expensive holidays), or neutral products (puppies, landscapes). The participants were then shown more images of neutral items that either featured thin, idealised models, or no models.
The study revealed that the women who were ’primed’ with the luxury item images first, and who had self-rated as being particularly attuned to notions of wealth, fame and image, reported more negative feelings about their bodies after viewing adverts featuring idealised models.
This study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, is the first to investigate the link between materialism and body image, and to show that the influence of materialism is a further factor that makes women more vulnerable to negative body image. Ashikali says that the results highlight the need for women to become more critical of the images and messages conveyed by the media.