Mass media is pervasive and plays a major role in American culture, if not world culture. Most people encounter mass media in their daily lives, be it through the magazines one reads, or the television and movies that people watch. As mass media grows its effects reach further than the consumers pocketbook or the home panty, it may affect one own psyche and ultimately health. Many studies have found that mass media has a effect on one body image but few have determined what in mass media, what television shows, what type of magazines, what type of music, and movies are responsible for the mental warfare on its very consumers. So I pose the question what is exactly to blame for the negative body image.
I will answer these questions by analyzing the affect mass media has on a person’s body image, which is closely tied with eating disorders. The task will be accomplished though a survey that will be administered to the students of California State University Fullerton at Irvine (CSUFI) and their friends. The survey probes the depths of mass media by, first, asking the participant of the mass media in their lives, whether it by through magazines, movies, music artists, music videos, and television.
Second, the participants are asked a series of questions to determine their feelings about their body. The questions concerning body image seek to eliminate bias by asking the participant to provide a numerical rating of their body image followed by a questions asking for a brief description of how they feel and what they would change on their bodies if they could. After, they are asked to provide personal opinions of body images portrayed in mass media.
Finally, the ratings are averaged and applied to their appropriate category. Conformity of responses is achieved in personal description body descriptions by categorizing whether they responses are excellent, satisfactory, neutral, unsatisfactory, or poor with body images portrayals in mass media following a similar equation. Categories that garnered a low response rate were excluded from the survey to avoid a confounding variables.
The procedures of the survey involved telling willing participants that they were about to take part in a survey about health and mass media. Details about the true objective, mass media and its effect on body image were intentionally left out to prevent bias. Following completion of the survey participants debriefed on the true nature of the survey ensuring that the rights of the participants were not violated. Confidentiality being a main concern, the surveys were designed to be anonymous. Sampling took place via email, to those students on the CSUFI network and at the physical campus of CSUFI to allow those without internet or computer access a chance to participate. Demographic data was collected so that any outlier in the results could be explained. Now that the structure of the survey has been addressed an examination of the data will commence.
Magazines and Body Image
The survey analysis of females and magazines found the following data:
* Out of a mean of 6.7 (Body Image Rating out of 10)
-The lowest rating of body image (5.3) was among those that read magazines concering popular music.
- The highest ratings of body image (7.4) was among those that read magazines in the field of healthy living.
-Those that did not read magazines had a body image of 6.8
* There were two categories that had the second highest ratings one was TV and Movies, the other category was female magazines with an adult content.
Refer to chart 1.1 for more information:
The analysis of male responses found the following:
* Out of a mean of 7.5.
-The highest rating (9) was found in those that read fashion and healthy living magazines.
-The lowest rating (7) was found in those that read gaming magazines.
-An interesting note. While in the female sample those that did not read magazines were the enjoyed the third highest body satisfaction, males that did not read magazines were next to last with regards to body satisfaction.
Refer to chart 1.2 for more information
In examining both male and female responses there are many interesting facts that present themselves. Note how the lowest mean male body rating is 7 ONLY .5 away from the overall mean. On the the other hand notice how for females the gap is 1.4 points nearly triple the differences found in males. As previously noted their is a negative correlation between Male N/A and Female N/A. Other interesting points of note are the differences in the types of magazines read. On a positive note, their seems to be a overall positive or neutral sense of body image when the magazine the person read is in regards to health living or fitness.
The analysis of music and its effect on body image for females found the following points.
* Out of a mean of 6.7
-For females those that did not regularly listen to music had the highest mean body satisfaction (7.8).
-Those that listened to R & B have the lowest level of body satisfaction (5.9)
Further details below on graph 2.1
The analysis of males found that:
* Out of a mean of 7.5
-those that listened to electric music had the average highest body satisfaction (9)
-the group with the lowest mean were those that did not listen to music (5.9)
Further details below in graph 2.2
As with magazines there are pronounced schisms and similarities between males and females. Notice how those that did not listen to music had the lowest body rating (in regards to males) while for females those that did not listen to music had the highest body satisfaction. The not only applies to those that do not listen to music either. Notice the mirror effect for rap and R & B, while rock and pop both have positive body ratings.
The analysis of television and its effect on body image found that for females:
* Out of an average of 6.7
-Those that watched television shows that involved horror had the highest body ratings (7.8) , while the lowest were found in those that viewed documentaries (4.8).
-Notice how for magazines fitness related material was correlated with higher mean body rating while watching a televised fitness (5) program resulted in the second to lowest mean body rating.
Further details below in graph 3.1
* Concerning males that watched television.
-Out of an average of 7.5
-Those that did not watch television had the highest mean body rating (8.6) , while those that watched sports had the lowest mean body rating (5.25).
With regards to television their appears to be a more balanced mean body ratings between males and females. The difference between the magazine fitness mean and the television fitness/ sports means should be researched.
The analysis for movies and body image rating for females found that:
*Out of a mean of 6.7
-As with television, those that watched movies that involved horror (7.5) had the highest body rating mean.
-The lowest body rating mean is correlated with those that watch dramatic films.
Refer to chart 4.1 for more information:
The analysis for movies and body image for males found that:
* Out of an average of 7.5
-Both adventure and horror have the highest mean body rating (8.3) .
-Those that did not watch movies had the lowest mean body rating (6.7) .
Refer to chart 4.2 for more information
Between male and females horror and adventure share the highest mean rating for both groups. Still notice how the N/A mean for males has become the lowest mean body rating.
In examining that data it seems that a negative body image is associated less with television and movies and stronger when the person is being exposed to magazines or music. Further, data analysis finds that females have a lower mean body rating than the males. Also, females tend to have a larger gap between overall mean body satisfaction and low categorical body rating mean. Regarding the categories of magazines and music we see that females and males have opposing body image ratings. Differences in body rating means for those the read fitness magazines and those that viewed fitness television shows were present, as well. On a positive note, those that read fitness magazines had a high body rating. On interesting note in those that had a negative body rating they still knew that the media portrayed body images as unrealistic or too skinny.
In conclusion, I remind those that review these results that these are an initial study of mass media effects and body image. I cannot begin to stress that more research is needed in this field. Because of the nature of this study, looking for the effects of different forms of media upon a sample their is a multiple different sample sizes could cause a type I or type II error. But, regardless of what in mass media causes a negative body image, I stress that if you are experiencing negative body image issues that you seek psychological counseling as soon as possible.