The pursuit of beauty through thinness and the impact of advertising on college women's attitudes

Lisa Marie Rocchio, University of Rhode Island


This experimental study examined the impact of exposure to advertisements that did or did not depict attractive female models on the self-esteem, attitudes toward the body, body-satisfaction, and figure-ratings of college women with high or low levels of eating-disordered and gender-stereotypical behavior. In addition, a scale measuring attitudes and behaviors consistent with women's pursuit of beauty was developed, and its preliminary factor structure was assessed. A total of 180 predominantly European-American, heterosexual college students (122 women and 58 men) participated in the study. Results did not differ for women who participated in mixed-gender or single-gender groups. Women exposed to advertisements depicting female models, when compared to women exposed to advertisements not depicting models, rated their own body-size as larger. Exposure to advertisements depicting female models had no significant impact on ratings of attitudes toward the body, body-satisfaction, or self-esteem. Attitudes toward their bodies were more negatively impacted by exposure to models among those women with higher levels of eating-disordered attitudes and behaviors and greater endorsement of gender-stereotyping. Significant correlations were found among measures of eating attitudes and behaviors, beauty attitudes, attitudes consistent with gender stereotypes, body image, and self-esteem for both women and men. However, the patterns of these relationships differed. Women scored significantly higher on measures of eating disorders and significantly lower on measures of gender-stereotyping and endorsement of positive attitudes toward the body than did men. Men's attitudes toward women's bodies were not affected by exposure to female models in advertisements. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Lisa Marie Rocchio, "The pursuit of beauty through thinness and the impact of advertising on college women's attitudes" (1995). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9601870.