Women are routinely exposed to highly sexualized images of women whose bodies have been airbrushed into literally impossible standards of beauty, which can contribute to body dissatisfaction. Women who are more dissatisfied with their bodies report greater depression, social anxiety, and disordered eating patterns. This experiment examines the effectiveness of two approaches to reduce the negative effects of media exposure on body dissatisfaction: warning labels and subvertising. Some body image activists groups have proposed legislation that would require photoshopped images to include a warning label that the image has been artificially manipulated. Subvertising takes this a step farther, where activists attempt to challenge dominant social discourses, particularly those promoting consumerism. Subvertising can take various forms, but typically involves the altering or superimposing of counter-attitudes onto the original message being displayed and satirizes commercial messages through visual manipulations of these messages. In this experiment, participants were exposed to photo advertisements for swimwear featuring slender models. The independent variable was message type: warning label, subvertising, or control. Participants reported their body image satisfaction (Cash, 2000) and surveillance levels (McKinley & Hyde, 1999) using validated measures. Results were analyzed using a One-Way Between-Subjects ANOVA, comparing the effectiveness of each experimental condition against the control condition. The findings from this study will help inform researchers and public policy advocates of the effectiveness of different techniques for improving body image in response to the ubiquitous problem of exposure to sexually objectifying photoshopped images.
Akbari, Yasmin; Sandhu, Gaganjyot; Scott, Terri; and Frederick, David, "The Effectiveness of Warning Labels and Subvertising on Reducing the Harmful Effects of Media Exposure" (2015). Student Research Day Abstracts and Posters. 119.