Body Image Survey

This blog contains a survey which I conducted with a student at University of Wollongong. It relates to Body imagine in the media and what effects it has on different people.

Q: Are you male or Female?

A: Female

Q: What is your age?

A: 18-14

Q: How often do you actively (pursue) or engage with digital, print or social media?

A: Everyday

Q: How do you believe the media portrays an ideal male body?

A: The specific media platforms that I engage with (Facebook and Instagram) portray the ideal male body as very athletic without any imperfection and muscly. E.G. Celebrities or professional athletes.

Q: How do you believe the media portrays an ideal female body?

A: Relating again to Facebook and Instagram popular celebrity workout trainers like Kayla Itsines who are super fit, skinny and very attractive is definitely the desired body and the ‘norm’.

Q: Where do you see these ‘ideal’ male and female bodies that appear in the media?

A: Mostly advertisements.

Q: What is the one thing you wish to change about your body?

A: I wish I could have slightly skinnier legs.

Q: Do you believe you compare yourself to the female or male body images presented to you in the media? And why?

A: Yes of course. There is always a desire to be part of the social norm which is presented by the media so the easiest way to “fit in” is to look like a successful media presence.

Q: Who do you believe influences your perception of the ideal body type the most?

A: Most defiantly celebrities

Q: Which of these images do you prefer?

female body image

A: The girl on the right, she looks more like a model.

Q: Which of these images do you prefer?

male body image 1

male body image 2

A: The first image is more attractive. The second image the guy is too big.

Q: Which of these ads makes you more inclined to purchase the product?

ad 1

ad 2

A: The second image. The girl is more appealing and has a seductive look about her.

The majority of the data collected from this interview is personal opinion from a UOW student and it is qualitative research. Looking back on the questions a few of them received one word answers which could have been changed to allow more in depth conversation. If I were to continue the study more research would go into why females and males respond to certain types of advertising and what is the ‘ideal’ male and female body image and why?


Good Looking = Successful?

Protein Shakes, 24 Hour Gyms, Eating Healthy, Tea Tox, Carb Depleting, Paleo.

You have probably heard of one if not all of these terms being thrown around in conversation during everyday life. It’s a fact that people love to talk about body image, especially in the media.

Media effect on body image in 2015 is a serious issue for both males and females. Body image is essentially how people see themselves and how they think other people see them. It is the feelings towards your body, including your perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations.

Vonderen and Kinnally’s 2012 study titled ‘Media Effects on Body Image: Examining Media Exposure in the Broader Context of Internal and Other Social Factors’ attempts to examine the connection between media use and body dissatisfaction by juxtaposing the media with the internal factor of self-esteem and other social factors such as peer and parental attitudes (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

The study was conducted in America with 285 female university undergraduate students answering questions about media exposure, comparisons with media figures, self-esteem, parental and peer attitudes toward body shape, and peer comparisons. Despite this being a very thorough study it immediately presents a problem discussing teen body image because no male students were interviewed.

There are also other limitations which are present in this paper which Vonderen and Kinnally (2012) outline. There were several limitations to this study; the sample consisted of undergraduate students primarily from communication students, resulting in a fairly homogenous sample that may be more attentive to media. While the student population was useful for this particular study, the topic is certainly not limited to students and a significantly younger or older sample may prove useful in gathering information for shaping effective health campaigns (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

Despite this paper focusing on women’s body image alone Vonderen and Kinnally analyse the situation perfectly. They discuss the mediated thin-ideal woman ideal that is present in mainstream media causes women turn to the media for information about how to look (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012). Consequently, women who are heavy viewers of thin-ideal media may develop the attitude that thinness is socially desirable, experience greater body dissatisfaction, and engage in weight loss behaviours and cosmetic surgery in an attempt to measure up to the standard they observe (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012).

Triplett (2007) agrees with Vonderen and Kinnally’s theory (2012) reinforcing that there exists a weight prejudice in our society that is reinforced not only by media, but also by social interactions with peers and parents and that thinness often has a very positive connotation, one that denotes success and social desirability. Hendriks & Burgoon (2003) takes a different approach to viewing body image in the media. His theory is that attractive people achieve more in our society and that they are viewed as more successful and happier with their lives.

Vonderen and Kinnally (2012) present a well research study which coincides with numerous other papers written on the topic of body image. They conclude their paper with a relevant quote towards the issue. “It is nearly impossible to find the exact origin of body image attitudes. Instead it may be more useful to consider that the variables serve to reinforce one another and strengthen existing attitudes, despite where they originate” (Vonderen & Kinnally: 2012: pg 53).

Reference List:

Vonderen, K. & Kinnally, W. 2012, ‘Media Effects on Body Image: Examining Media Exposure in the Broader Context of Internal and Other Social Factors’, American Communication Journal, Vol 14:2

Triplett, L. 2007, ‘The Blame Game: A first glimpse at the socially acceptable causes of female fatness’. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-27.


Ethics and Research Ethics

When it comes to discussing Ethics it is regarded as a ‘grey’ topic, meaning that each person has a different view of what ethics is and what it entails. According to Hunter (2014) ethics are widely-agreed moral principles about what is right and wrong, what is proper and improper. Ethical research ensures the researcher is doing the right thing – by the project, its participants and society at large.

Different people will have different ideas and standards about what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable making ethics subjective. There are no universal definitions of ethics therefore professions, organisations and governments adopt guidelines although they are more broad generalisations.

When conducting research there are four main ethical principles which relate to your research.

  • Autonomy (or self-determination) refers to respecting the rights, values and decisions of other people and making sure they have given you informed consent.
  • Non-maleficence which deems that members of your research do not intentionally inflict harm on another or yourself.
  • Beneficence which relates to remove existing harms and confer benefits on others.
  • Non-maleficence and beneficence operate together because you must weigh the possible benefits of research against harmful risks
  • Justice meaning people should be treated equitably and the benefits of research should be shared with all who qualify.

A recent study conducted by Facebook has come under fire from the public for perhaps breaching research ethics practises. Facebook’s ‘Emotional Manipulation Study’ which aimed to see if emotions could be transferred to other Facebook user without them realising it was conducted through some strategically placed advertisements and sponsored messages. The study then examined to see if users would alter their posting habits and be more in tune with the messages Facebook was conveying.

Facebook is being slammed for this study due to the fact that users where not asked for consent by Facebook before becoming involved in the study. However research M. Verma ensures that the study conducted was within the regulatory framework known as Common Rule (Hunter 2014). His argument revolves around the fact that this experiment was conducted by Facebook for internal purposes. He states;

“as a private company Facebook was under no obligation to conform to the provisions of the Common Rule when it collected the data used by the authors”.

“Their work was limited to initial discussions, analysing the research results and working with colleagues from Facebook to prepare the peer-reviewed paper” […]

“Because the research was conducted independently by Facebook and Professor Hancock had access only to results – and not to any individual, identifiable data at any time – Cornell University’s Institutional Review Board concluded that he was not directly engaged in human research” […]

The conclusion of the argument is that it is merely a matter of interpretation. There are no set guidelines on ethics therefore we are left with the question of when is someone involved in human research?

Reference List:

Hunter, David, 2014, Facebook puts ethics of research by private companies in spotlight

Kramer, Adam D. I., Guillory, Jamie E. & Hancock, Jeffrey T. 2014, ‘Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 111, no. 24, pp. 8788-8790

Botta and Body Image

Body image is quite a large epidemic amongst women, especially girls in their teenage years whereas men’s issues about body image are not voiced in the media on an equal scale. The popularity of Men’s Health magazine which promotes fitness also raises awareness in the public mediated sphere of male body image and the importance of accepting a person for their inner beliefs as opposed to their physical appearance. “Public sphere culture is too spectacular. Audiences have short attention spans. They only want flashy visuals and superficial distractions“. (McKee, 2005)

Botta (2003) in her research paper ‘For your Health? The Relationship between Magazine Reading and Adolescents’ specifically investigates the effects of advertising and stereotypical body image on adolescents. She states that scholars have begun to examine the increased emphasis on muscularity for men. The current supposition is that a drive to be muscular may be as dangerous for adolescent boys as a drive to be thin is for adolescent girls (Botta 2003). Sports, health, and fitness magazines may be a meaningful training ground for adolescents to learn the importance of muscularity and the methods to obtain these perfect sports bodies. Such magazines also reinforce the rewards that accompany the attainment of “perfect” bodies (Botta 2003).

Botta analyses the negative effects that health magazines have on adolescents. In her survey nearly 400 high school and college students from an urban area in the Midwest were specifically analysed and tested about the extent to which reading fashion, sports, and health/fitness magazines related directly to their body image and any eating disturbances, including the added dimension of muscularity (Botta 2003). The results from the survey indicated that magazine reading, social comparisons, and critical body image processing are important predictors of body image and eating disturbances for adolescent boys and girls“. (Botta, 2003)

The audience of this research paper is mainly centered on researchers investigating the effect between magazine reading and adolescents. However this research paper was published in 2003, therefore the statistical evident in this paper would be out of date. Botta uses primary sources and secondary sources in her paper. Primary sources include interviews with teenagers in high schools and a survey of 400 high school students. She also draws on her previous work relating to anabolic steroid use among high school boys published in 1999.

After examination of Botta (2003) article this paper is extremely relevant towards body image in adolescents. However when looking outside of the Midwest United States this paper would present some negative aspects as well as being dated.


McKee, A, 2005, ‘Introduction: the public sphere: an introduction’ in Public Sphere: An Introduction, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp1-31

Botta, A, 2003, ‘For Your Health? The Relationship Between Magazine Reading and Adolescents’ Body Image and Eating Disturbances, Sex Roles, Vol 48, pp389-398

What is Research?

Research is essentially looking for information about something. Most of us do what we call research all the time even though we may not think this is research (Berger A, 2014). While applying for university in my first year without even knowing I was doing everyday research. I was asking my friends where they were studying and what courses they were undertaking while also sussing out the best places to eat, party and hang out. Without even knowing I had undertaken some serious research into where I wanted to live and study. However there is a difference between everyday research such as my investigation into where I should study and scholarly research.

According to Berger, 2014; scholarly research is generally more systemic, more objective, more careful and more concerned about correctness and truthfulness than everyday research. (Berger A, 2014).

This research can be broken down again into two sub categories quantitative and qualitative research.

Quality when it comes to texts which are assessed by the media, involve matters such as the text’s properties, degree of excellence, and distinguishing characteristics (Berger A, 2014). This type of research is based around the element of evaluation, judgement and taste. However researchers in this field can be accused of reading too much into texts which therefore develops theories that are not there or can create opinions or interpretations that seem odd, excessive or even idiosyncratic (Berger A, 2014).

The other research method is based around Quantity. This is a different method which relates more to numbers, magnitude, and measurement (Berger A, 2014). Quantitative researchers often encounter a problem because they only count certain things in their research which leads to the case that if something cannot be quantified then it is not of great importance in one’s research (Berger A, 2014). Quantitative researchers are often scrutinised for being too narrow, basing their research on what they count, measure, observe and neglecting other matters (Berger A, 2014).

To simplify this down

Quantitative Research:

  • Counts
  • Measures
  • processes the data that is collected
  • Describes, explains and predicts
  • Finally leads to a hypothesis or theory.

Qualitative Research:

  • Evaluates
  • Uses concepts to explicate
  • Is theoretical
  • Interprets
  • Leads to an evaluation

With social media interaction via the web 2.0 becoming more globally accepted as a first point of call for information, companies and organisation around the world are increasing their social media presence in the hope that they can dominate the chosen media space. Television shows, radio stations and newspapers all now have an online presence be it Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or Instagram. In researching the change from traditional means (print) to social media interactions quantitative and qualitative research methods would be use to collect data on both sides which will allow a better understanding as to why traditional media is being replaced with social media.

Reference List:

Berger, Arthur A. 2014, ‘What is research?’, in Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 13-32

ACMA 2014, Supply & demand: catch-up TV leads Australians’ online video use

Ellis, Katie 2014, ‘Television’s transition to the internet: disability accessibility and broadband-based TV in Australia ‘, Media international Australia, vol. 153, no. November, pp. 53-63