Visual Diet versus Associative Learning as Mechanisms of Change in Body Size Preferences

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  2. Dr Martin Tovee
  3. Thomas Pollet
Author(s)Boothroyd LG, Tovee MJ, Pollet TV
Publication type Article
JournalPLoS One
Year2012
Volume7
Issue11
Pages
ISSN (electronic)1932-6203
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Systematic differences between populations in their preferences for body size may arise as a result of an adaptive ‘prepared learning’ mechanism, whereby cues to health or status in the local population are internalized and affect body preferences. Alternatively, differences between populations may reflect their ‘visual diet’ as a cognitive byproduct of mere exposure. Here we test the relative importance of these two explanations for variation in body preferences. Two studies were conducted where female observers were exposed to pictures of high or low BMI women which were either aspirational (healthy, attractive models in high status clothes) or non-aspirational (eating disordered patients in grey leotards), or to combinations thereof, in order to manipulate their body-weight preferences which were tested at baseline and at post–test. Overall, results showed good support for visual diet effects (seeing a string of small or large bodies resulted in a change from pre- to post-test whether the bodies were aspirational or not) and also some support for the associative learning explanation (exposure to aspirational images of overweight women induced a towards preferring larger bodies, even when accompanied by equal exposure to lower weight figures in the non-aspirational category). Thus, both influences may act in parallel.
PublisherPublic Library of Science
URLhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048691
DOI10.1371/journal.pone.0048691
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