Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

J. Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Commentary, Weight, Size, Physical, Eating disorders

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated the influential role of physical appearance-related feedback in the development of body image and eating disturbances. Teasing and negative feedback have been established as strong correlates and predictors of body dissatisfaction, maladaptive eating behaviors, and psychological distress. However, very little is known about ambiguous appearance-related feedback and its impact on others. The current study sought to explore this area with an experimental study to examine the effects of ambiguous appearance-related feedback on body image, mood states, and intentions to use body change strategies. Undergraduate women (N=146) were randomly assigned to an ambiguous appearance-related or ambiguous nonappearance-related feedback condition. Body image, mood states, and intentions to diet, exercise, and use unhealthy weight control methods were assessed before and after feedback was provided by a confederate.

Results indicated no significant differences between feedback conditions in body image and mood states. The mean trends for all mood state, with the exception of anger, indicated better mood states after ambiguous appearance-related feedback compared to after ambiguous nonappearance-related feedback. State anger was greater in the ambiguous appearance-related feedback condition suggesting that this particular type of feedback was interpreted in a negative manner. Further, there was a significant difference between feedback conditions for intentions to diet and use bulimic behaviors, with lower levels in the ambiguous appearance-related feedback condition. No significant differences were found for intentions to exercise. State appearance comparison was not shown to mediate the relationship between ambiguous feedback and body image, mood states, or intentions to use body change strategies.

Trait appearance satisfaction, appearance comparison, appearance schematicity, and thin ideal internalization were found to moderate the relationship between ambiguous feedback and state depression. Trait appearance comparison moderated the relationship between ambiguous feedback and intentions to use bulimic behaviors. Exploratory analyses conducted with subsamples developed using high versus low levels of trait disturbance showed significant results for the subsample based on trait appearance comparison levels. The findings are discussed in the context of possible reasons for the unexpected responses to the ambiguous appearance-related versus nonappearance-related feedback. The limitations of the study and directions for future research are also noted.

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