Presentation Title: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction: Social Comparison, Objectification, and Sociocultural Factors

Abstract: Many men and women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and this dissatisfaction is particularly pronounced for heavy women and for thin and heavy men. Body image researchers have developed and applied a diverse set of theories to explain why body dissatisfaction emerges, but these theories are typically tested in isolation from each other. In this study, I examine the utility of measures assessing constructs derived from social comparison theory, objectification theory, and sociocultural theory in predicting satisfaction with overall appearance, satisfaction with weight, satisfaction with muscle size and tone, self-ideal discrepancies, and desires for body modification. Participants were 12,654 men and 12,521 women with an average age of 42 (SD = 13) who completed a survey posted on the official website of the NBC News organization. The following percentages of men and women were: dissatisfied with their appearance overall (22% vs. 28%), their weight (40% vs. 49%), and their muscle size and tone (31% vs. 45%). Overall, the following percentages agreed or strongly agreed that they experience objectification (61% vs. 78%), engage in surveillance (39% vs. 63%), compare their appearance to the appearance of others at social events (51% vs. 76%), feel pressure from the media to have a more attractive body (29% vs. 62%), and that their current bodies do not match their ideal bodies (41% vs.42%). Among the theory-based predictors, regression analyses revealed that media pressure media was the strongest predictor of overall appearance dissatisfaction for men, but was second for women behind social comparison tendencies. This study helps isolate the extent to which people feel dissatisfied with their bodies, the extent to which they score relatively high on important predictors of body dissatisfaction, and then finally the relative usefulness of these predictors.


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