Intolerance: Thin Mannequins Out Of Fashion?

For decades, advertisers have used ultra-thin models to sell everything from toiletries to cars, drawing stiff criticism from those who say the images are harming women's health. But a new study presented at a major psychology conference in Edinburgh has revealed that the advertisers have been wasting their time and that advertisements using normal-sized women could be just as effective. The report comes as some companies, most notably 'Nike' and 'Dove', turn to larger women to promote their products. Social psychologists at the Universities of Sussex and West of England invited 293 female students to take part in the study. The women were first asked about their view of their own body in order to monitor their attitudes to their own image. A month later they were asked to take part in a 'consumer survey' on a new shower gel advertising campaign. One-third of the women were shown a picture of an attractive UK size 14 woman against a glamorous backdrop, one-third were shown the same woman, but changed to a UK size 8, and a final third were shown just the background as a control. Researchers found that women who felt their appearance was important became more depressed with their bodies after viewing a thin model and voiced an intention to diet. However, those shown the average-size model reported a more positive self-image. In terms of advertising, the participants did not report a greater intention to buy the shower gel after seeing the thinner model. Presenting the new findings at 'The British Psychological Society' conference at 'The University of Edinburgh', Ms.Helga Dittmar, of 'The University of Sussex', said the research was prompted by the high rates of body dissatisfaction among women in western society. She pointed out the average supermodel is up to 20 per cent underweight, but the doctors rate anyone 15 per cent underweight as 'anorexic'. So, while the average weight of women in Britain is edging steadily upwards, the idealised images of women such as Ms.Victoria Beckham or Ms.Eva Herzigova are 'unrealistic, unattainable and unhealthy', leading to eating disorders and yo-yo dieting. Ms.Dittmar added:
'There was a criticism of the mass media for propagating such an unhealthy ideal that is contributing to women's unhappiness when there is no particularly good reason for doing so. 'Results suggest that average-size attractive models are equally effective in advertising as ultra-thin models.'
Her colleague, Ms.Emma Halliwell, said their research would help protect women from body dissatisfaction. She said:
'The findings from our current research will assist in developing interventions to protect women from body dissatisfaction, as well as informing debates about the use of ultra-thin models in the media.'
'Thin models no big deal for selling products ', Louise Gray, The Scotsman, 2005-09-01, th


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