Body & Media Lab

Renee Engeln at Northwestern University

Cognitive responses to idealized media images of women

This study explored college women’s cognitive processing of print advertisements featuring images of highly attractive female models. The relationship of counterarguing (critical processing) and social comparison in response to these images with a number of body image–related variables was examined. Participants were 202 undergraduate females. Research was conducted in two phases. In one phase, participants wrote their thoughts in response to three advertisements taken from recent women’s magazines. In the second phase, women completed a number of self–report measures focusing on body image, along with a number of distracter measures. Results suggest that making negative outcome, upward social comparisons in response to such images is significantly associated with greater internalization of the thin ideal and decreased satisfaction with one’s own appearance. Despite predictions that counterarguing might act as a protective factor, the tendency to generate counterarguments in response to …

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