Could a disclaimer on all media images help alleviate body image issues? No, suggests a recent study.
Extensive exposure to slender and attractive models, who have been digitally altered to appear flawless, has negative effects on how many women feel about their bodies.
Researchers at Chapman University tested if adding disclaimers or “subvertisements” to these images counteracts the negative effects of this media. Subvertisements are changes that body image activists make to advertisements to counter or “subvert” the message of the ads. The researchers exposed women to media images of bikini models, and added either disclaimers or subvertising messages to them.
“The results showed that the women exposed to the disclaimers and subvertising did not report higher body satisfaction than women exposed to unaltered images,” said lead author David Frederick. “These results raise questions about the effectiveness of disclaimers and subvertising for promoting body satisfaction.”
To test whether disclaimers or subvertising were effective, 2,288 women were recruited across two studies. The study results offer reason for pessimism regarding the effectiveness of disclaimers and subvertising for improving body image. “There is no existing research that has examined whether viewing images that have been subvertised improves body image, reduces social comparison, or reduces a desire to be thin,” said Dr. Frederick. “We found that simply viewing subvertised images was not effective.”
He noted that the research shows that other approaches, such as media literacy programs and individual therapy appear to be more effective interventions. Even if viewing the actual subvertisements does not benefit most women, the act of creating them may be a positive experience for women experiencing body dissatisfaction. The study appears in journal Body Image.