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Pre-attentive exposure to the thin female beauty ideal does not affect women's mood, self-esteem and eating behaviour

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Exposure to the thin beauty ideal has been found to decrease women's mood and self-esteem as well as to increase self-reported eating pathology. In the present study, it was tested whether the changes in mood, self-esteem and eating behaviour could be activated outside of conscious attention by ultrashort exposure to either slides of thin media models, obese models or neutral slides. The subliminal exposure did not affect women's mood and self-esteem in the expected way and the eating behaviour of restrained and unrestrained subjects was unaffected by the manipulation. It is concluded that pre-attentive exposure to the thin beauty ideal had no devastating effect on the well-being of women. Note that data from supraliminal studies may be seriously confounded by demand characteristics like answering in a socially desirable way. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.

Keywords: cognition; eating disorders; exposure; restraint; self-esteem

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Experimental Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands 2: University Medical Center St Radboud, Department of Medical Psychology, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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