Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

J. Kevin Thompson


body image, depression, eating disorders, prevention, self-objectification


Self-objectification is the process by which women take on a third-person perspective in evaluating their physical appearance and sexual attributes. Objectification theory states that self-objectification may lead to negative mental health outcomes in women; a growing body of cross-sectional and experimental research supports the connection between self-objectification and the experience of shame, disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction. This study sought to evaluate an intervention designed to reduce self-objectification behaviors and beliefs in order to prevent the development of disordered eating, depression, and sexual dysfunction. An efficacious prevention program using cognitive dissonance induction was adapted to target self-objectification. The efficacy of the self-objectification dissonance intervention was evaluated in comparison to an expressive writing control condition. The self-objectification intervention was also compared to an existing empirically supported cognitive dissonance intervention targeting beliefs regarding the thin-ideal to determine whether or not this intervention provided added benefits in reducing risk factors for disordered eating and depression.

A sample of 119 undergraduate females was recruited to participate in the study. Participants were randomized to one of three conditions: the self-objectification dissonance intervention, the thin-ideal dissonance intervention, or the expressive writing control group. All participants completed a baseline assessment and two intervention sessions over a three week period. One month following the completion of the second intervention session, participants were asked to complete a follow up assessment. Change in target outcome variables from baseline to post-intervention were evaluated using hierarchical linear models. Maintenance of treatment outcomes from post-intervention to 1 month follow up was evaluated using mixed factor analysis of variance.

Results indicated that significant changes in outcome variables (body shame, disordered eating, body satisfaction, depression symptoms, and sexual self-consciousness) and mediating variables (self-surveillance, self-objectification, thin-ideal internalization) were associated with all three groups. The self-objectification dissonance intervention was associated with a greater reduction in self-surveillance compared to the control group but not with the thin-ideal dissonance intervention. For all groups, there were no significant changes in outcome and mediating variables from post-intervention to 1 month follow up. Participants in the self-objectification dissonance intervention, though, did continue to experience a decrease in self-surveillance over the one month follow up period compared to the thin-ideal dissonance group.

Overall, results did not support that a self-objectification dissonance intervention is associated with significant reductions in eating disorder and depression risk factors above and beyond a general expressive writing task and existing intervention programs. These findings suggest that there is limited utility in specifically targeting objectification processes in prevention programs. Implications of study findings for future eating disorder and mental health prevention program designs are discussed.