Friday, April 16, 2010

Unaffected By Your Body Image Women? Think Again.

It seems that society has, is, and will most likely, always advertise an idealistic image of what a "typical" woman should look like to everyone. The question is not whether or not these images are right but what affects do they have on us? There will always be women that are negatively influenced by media sources when it comes to what they feel they should look like but what about the women that believe they are happy with how they look? Are they completely unaffected?

A study was done to better understand if the female brain was hardwired to be concerned with body image. This study focused on the resemblance between the brain of bulimic women versus the brain of healthy women when confronted with the thought that they might be overweight. The hope is that these findings might eventually aid doctors in better evaluating and treating body image issues regardless of how subtle they may be. This study could be evidence for the suspicion that most women are walking a fine like between having and not having an eating disorder.

To conduct the study this group focused on a particular part of the brain they referred to as the medial prefrontal cortex. This portion of the brain seems to be stimulated when people are exposed to questions that force them to engage in serious self-reflection. Scientists suspect that this particular area of the brain may betray the subconscious thoughts that people may have. This article made reference to another study with word association that showed people who did not believe themselves to be racist actually showed racist tendencies when they have no time to consciously override what is under the surface.

By using fMRI machines scientists scanned the brains of 10 "healthy" women who had all passed eating disorder screening tests and therefore, theoretically, felt perfectly fine with their bodies. While hooked up to brain scanners these women viewed images of models that were both skinny and overweight. These women were also told to imagine that someone else was telling them that these models looked like them. When the images were of overweight women the medial prefrontal cortex lit up in all women. The mere thought that these women were imagining themselves overweight seemed to trigger a response indicating that the women were questioning their sense of self. After these tests however, the women claimed that the tests were boring or meaningless. It seems that this article suggests that even though women say that they are comfortable with their body image and are well adjusted, subconsciously, they may really care.

While most men, excluding body builders, were unaffected by this kind of test we see that women seem to be. Even though women that have bulimia have a stronger reaction in their medial prefrontal cortex they seem to show similarities with women who do not suffer from it. Therefore, concluding from this study, there may just be an even finer line women walk between being healthy and suffering from an eating disorder. It just goes to show that even if you feel like you are the most confidant woman in the world you may be betrayed by your subconscious.

Caitlin Lavin


  1. I feel strongly that people no matter what they may say cannot help but be affected by body image. I feel this is an inherited trait, body image helps in mate selection. If the female feels good about their body they may be more prone to get more desirable mates. I don't think it makes females, or males for that matter; shallow. I feel this is just a way to help pick a mate, and most males I know like a female who feels good about themselves. Feeling good about yourself does not have to be about weight, but more on how they carry themselves.

  2. The media is always going to Idealize the human figure. Whether it be men or women the general public would rather see attractive looking people within the media than less attractive people. The fact of matter is there is an emphasis on being in good shape and maintaining a certain body figure. While this may be a little extensive at times I feel it is better than advertising groups of blatantly obese individuals as the norm. That being said, eating disorders are a serious issue in young women today, but To blame this boom in eating disorders entirely on the media is a little extensive and misinterpreted. If the media is causing a increase in eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia then why is there a simultaneous boom in obesity.

    Pat Salome

  3. I agree with the idea that media is shaping and molding how people want their bodies to look like. I'm not seeing how simple nerve test can help people in the long run. I guess its a nice attempt to help the situation.

    Minwoo Ji

  4. As a woman myself I am comfortable with my body, but even though I do not find myself overweight I highly doubt I do not pick apart my looks on occasion. I think that many woman will not voice their opinions but they are there, even if they are not strong. Knowing that the media has constant weight loss, wrinkle cream, acne medication, hair dyes, etc. ads along with beautiful unreal women/men on tv screens plays a huge role U dont think that anyone goes unaffected. Everyone has a bad day! I do not think it is wrong to want to change anything about yourself, it gives you goals. But people who actually have diseases with this sort of thing would not be affected by an MRI, they should find something that would help them get over it. Or...we could just change the entire media to the normal everyday people!!

    Posted by Amanda Hostetter


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