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Television Consumption Drives Perceptions of Female Body Attractiveness in a Population Undergoing Technological Transition

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lynda Boothroyd, Tracey Thornborrow, Dr Elizabeth EvansORCiD, Dr Martin Tovee



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by American Psychological Association, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Perceptions of physical attractiveness vary across cultural groups, particularly for female body size and shape. It has been hypothesised that visual media propagates Western ‘thin ideals’. However, because cross-cultural studies typically consider groups highly differentiated on a number of factors, identifying the causal factors has thus far been impossible. In the present research, we conducted ‘naturalistic’ and controlled experiments to test the influence of media access on female body ideals in a remote region of Nicaragua by sampling from villages with and without regular television access. We found that greater television consumption remained a significant predictor of preferences for slimmer, curvier female figures after controlling for a range of other factors in an ethnically balanced sample of 299 individuals (150 female, aged 15-79) across 7 villages. Within-individual analyses in one village over 3 years also showed an association between increased TV consumption and preferences for slimmer figures amongst some participants. Finally, an experimental study in two low-media locations demonstrates that exposure to media images of fashion models can directly impact participants’ body size ideals. We thus provide the first converging cross-sectional, longitudinal and experimental evidence from field-based research, that media exposure can drive changes in perceptions of female attractiveness.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boothroyd LG, Jucker JL, Thornborrow T, Barton R, Burt DM, Evans EH, Jamieson M, Tovee MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Personality & Social Psychology

Year: 2020

Volume: 119

Issue: 4

Pages: 839-860

Print publication date: 01/10/2020

Acceptance date: 09/10/2019

Date deposited: 03/11/2019

ISSN (print): 0022-3514

ISSN (electronic): 1939-1315

Publisher: American Psychological Association


DOI: 10.1037/pspi0000224


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