Media and Self-Esteem, Body Image

The constant exposure of media to adolescents and emerging adults provides daily messages and images about beauty, attractiveness, gender, and idealized bodies and shapes. Research has shown that the media’s portrayal of idealized male and female beauty has a negative impact on the way men and women feel about themselves.

This paper will discuss the role of media, including television and magazines’ impact on self-esteem and body image in both men and women. Greater exposure to idealized images of male and female beauty will lead to decreased self-esteem and negative body image in both genders.

In a study done by Markey and Markey (2012), the researchers wanted to understand the possible influence of the media’s depictions of women on young adult men and women. The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine emerging adult women’s and men’s responses to idealized female beauty in a reality television show that featured cosmetic surgery changing a woman’s appearance.

The researchers hypothesized that men would be less likely to respond positively to the ideal message of female attractiveness than women, and female participants, who viewed the reality show more favorably would also be more likely to be interested in getting cosmetic surgery than those who viewed the show less favorably. The sample included ninety-one men and women from a Philadelphia metropolitan area university. Over half of the participants ethnically identified themselves Euro American, twelve percent reported being African American, eleven percent Asian American, fourteen percent selfidentified as Hispanic/Latina, and two percent indicated they were of “other” ethnic background.

Get quality help now
Doctor Jennifer

Proficient in: Beauty

5 (893)

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The sample also included participants from different economic statuses and education levels. Participants completed the study in groups of two to six and were seated in a dark room, free of distractions, in front of a television. They were told to pay close attention to what they were viewing and were discouraged from making any comments while watching the show.

After watching the show depicting surgical procedures improving a woman’s appearance, participants completed questionnaires asking them to write their reaction to the show they just watched. They also completed questionnaires assessing their interest in cosmetic surgery and their overall selfappearance satisfaction. The results of the study revealed both men and women responded positively to the media suggestion that women should pursue extreme measures to conform to cultural ideals of beauty (Markey & Markey, 2012). Results also showed that women who showed more interest in cosmetic surgery viewed the show more favorably than those who did not. In contrast to the researcher’s hypothesis, they found no gender difference between men and women’s responses to the show’s representation of idealized female attractiveness.

However, men seemed to be just as impressed with the benefits of enhancing one’s physical appearance as women. The experimental research provided some evidence of a causal link between media presentation of cosmetic surgery and individuals desire to get surgery. Although the study gains a better understanding of the media’s depiction of ideal female beauty, it has several limitations. The cross sectional design of the study does not lend itself to determine whether or not these attitudinal/behavioral patterns are long-term. The study also failed to be diverse in age focusing only on emerging adults and focused only on an idealized image of female beauty rather than male and female idealized images.

Due to strong evidence suggesting the media’s portrayal of women in ads has a negative effect on women’s body and self-esteem, researchers from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville conducted a study discover whether there is an advantage to exposing women to the truth behind models enhanced images in the media as well as facts about the average female body (Haas, 2012). These researchers hypothesized that when women were shown the small figures depicted in the media, their body esteem would decrease, but by exposing the truth about unrealistic thin images in the media their decreased level of body esteem would be reversed.

The study included a sample of one hundred sixty female college students randomly assigned to two groups consisting of eighty participants in each group. The participants ranged in age from eighteen to forty five years old. Eighty one percent of the sample identified themselves as Caucasian while thirteen percent ethnically identified as African American. The experiment consisted of two sessions and took place during a period early in the school semester. In the first session, participants in the experimental group were told they would be viewing magazine ads with models wearing various styles of clothing and were asked to think about how they felt they would look in each outfit. They then viewed the media presentation and completed the Body Esteem Scale.

The control group was told they were completing in a study regarding fashion and were free to leave after completing one measure. The participants saw no presentation but still completed the Body Esteem Scale. In the second session, all participants returned two to four weeks after the first session and were again placed in their previous conditions. Again, the experimental group viewed the media truth presentation while the control group did not and each participant completed the same Body Esteem Scale. The results of the study revealed significant increases in positive feelings amongst participants about themselves after the media truth presentation. The researchers concluded that informing women about the changed media images of women and what the average woman really looks like may have had a positive impact on women’s views about their bodies.

Although the media truth presentation was effective for both average sized and over-weight women, no data was collected for its effects on underweight women due to the small sample size. Due to the small group setting of the study, women could have been reacting to bodies of other participants and not just the models. The study also lacked ethnic diversity and failed to collect data from women not in college. Similarly, a study conducted by Tucci and Peters (2008) examined the immediate impact of media portrayals of slender attractiveness and beauty on evaluations of one’s body and disordered eating symptomatology in female undergraduate students. Forty-two female undergraduate students from the University of Liverpool psychology department aged eighteen to twenty five years participated in the study. In this experiment, participants were given a questionnaire and a visual analogue scale booklet to determine body satisfaction. Participants then watched slideshows depicting images of thin or overweight women for two minutes.

After viewing the slideshow, they were then asked to answer questions of how they felt at that exact moment on a scale from one to one hundred about their waist, legs, weight, thighs, and overall profile on visual analogue scales. Consistent with the predictions, results showed a decrease in body satisfaction scores after exposure to slender media images while an increase of body satisfaction occurred after exposure to bigger media images. Researchers also found that when evaluating the questionnaires on eating disorders, the desire to be thin and body dissatisfaction increased after exposure to slender model images. Although this study shows the link between brief exposure to the slender idealized image of the female body and decreased body satisfaction amongst individuals, it fails to show the effect daily media exposure has on individuals with psychological, biological, or familial disturbances.

Cite this page

Media and Self-Esteem, Body Image. (2022, May 04). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7