Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Date of Defense

10-2-2009

Graduate Advisor

Stake, Jayne E.

Committee

Matthew Kliethermes, Ph.D.

Kashubeck-West, Susan

Abstract

Body objectification occurs when individuals adopt an observer’s view of their body and treat their body as an object. This process has been linked to a host of harmful consequences, including appearance anxiety and shame, decreased awareness of internal bodily states, eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction (see Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997, for a review). The current investigation is based on objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997), a sociocultural framework that describes the experiences and psychological risks of those who objectify their bodies. This study examined trait levels of self-objectification and social physique anxiety in women and men, as well as state levels following an experimental prime. One hundred ninety-two participants were assigned to one of three conditions: expecting to meet an opposite-gender person, expecting to meet a same-gender person, or no mention of meeting another person (control condition). It was predicted that women would have significantly higher levels of trait self-objectification and appearance anxiety than men but that this gender gap would decrease in the opposite-gender condition with respect to state levels. A buffering effect was also explored for those in the same-gende condition. The primary design of the study was a 2 by 3 by 2 (Gender x Condition x Time) mixed ANCOVA. As expected, trait levels of social physique anxiety were significantly higher for women than for men. However, contrary to expectations, trait levels of self-objectification were similar across genders, and the gender gap did not narrow for state levels of either dependent variable. Patterns did reveal that state self-objectification was highest in the opposite-gender condition relative to the other two conditions for both genders. A buffering effect appeared in the same-gender condition for self-objectification, particularly for men. However, women’s state social physique anxiety was highest in the same-gender condition, followed by the opposite-gender and control conditions, whereas men’s levels were highest in the control condition, followed by the same-gender and relationship conditions. Interpretations of the findings and implications of the study are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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