Plus-size positivity has been having a moment of late. And hooray for that!
From an increase of ‘real’ women being used in fashion campaigns to an influx of plus-size models hitting the runways (men’s fashion could still do better!), this ‘all bodies are beautiful’ stance is having a positive effect on women’s mental health.
According to a new study by Florida State University, merely seeing plus-size models can actually boost women’s psychological health.
The study analysed 49 women of university age – all of whom had revealed they wanted to be thinner.
The participants were shown various images of thin, average and plus-size fashion models on a screen before being quizzed about their own body satisfaction.
“By measuring psychophysiological responses during image exposure, we were able to gain insights into the real-time cognitive and emotional responses that unfold when women are exposed to different-size media fashion models,” explained lead author Dr Russell Clayton, assistant professor in the Florida State Universtiy School of Communication.
Interestingly, the results revealed that women were more likely to take notice of and remember average and plus-size models, compared to the models thinner counterparts.
When thin models appeared on the screen, the women seemed to make more comparisons between themselves and the models, while at the same time paying less attention to the models and remembering less about them.
This had a not totally unexpected knock-off affect of the participants coming away with lower body satisfaction and poorer psychological health.
On the flipside, however, when average and plus-sized models were on the screen, study participants made fewer comparisons but paid far more attention to the models and afterwards reported feeling better about their own bodies.
“We found overwhelmingly that there is a clear psychological advantage when the media shows more realistic body types than the traditional thin model,” said Dr Clayton.
“Women made fewer social comparisons, felt increased body satisfaction, paid more attention to and remembered average and plus-size models.”
Dr Clayton believes the results indicate that using more normal-shaped models for fashion campaigns and in the media could have a positive impact on women’s mental health, but could also prove to be a useful marketing tool.
“Therefore, it might be a useful persuasive strategy for media producers to employ plus-size models if the goal of the campaign is to capture attention while also promoting body positivity,” he says.
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