Perceptions of ideal female body images: A study of African-American students' responses to fashion magazine advertising

Berrin Allison Beasley

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine if the race and body size of a model affected subjects' perceptions of their own body image. The population under study was 18-23 year old African American college females. A convenience sample of 135 African American college females was taken from a predominantly black southern university. A pre-test/post-test experimental methodology was used for the study. The true intent of the study was disguised by telling subjects they would be completing a survey about their perceptions of women in magazine advertising. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups or a control group. Treatment group one received a booklet containing four fashion magazine ads depicting thin, Caucasian models. Treatment group two received a booklet containing four fashion magazine ads depicting plus-size, Caucasian models. Treatment group three received a booklet containing four fashion magazine ads depicting thin, African American models. Treatment group four received a booklet containing four fashion magazine ads depicting plus-size, African American models. The control group received a booklet containing four magazine ads with no models. Subjects did not view the ads until after completing the first four parts of the measurement instrument, which included a pretest that measured subjects' current perceptions of their body image. Then subjects were given five seconds to view each ad in the booklet for a total consecutive viewing time of 20 seconds. Then subjects were asked to close the booklet and without referring to it answer the last section of the measurement instrument, Which was the post test. No significance was found for each of the four hypotheses. According to the findings, African American college females experience neither an increase nor a decrease in their body image satisfaction after brief exposure to fashion magazine advertisements. Neither the race of the model nor her body size affected subjects' perceptions of their own body image. It may be concluded that African American college females do not suffer from body image dissatisfaction as do their Caucasian counterparts, nor are they affected by media images of the ideal female form as are Caucasian college females.