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Muscle and fat aftereffects and the role of gender: Implications for body image disturbance


Brooks, KR and Keen, E and Sturman, D and Mond, JM and Stevenson, RJ and Stephen, ID, Muscle and fat aftereffects and the role of gender: Implications for body image disturbance, British Journal of Psychology pp. 1-20. ISSN 0007-1269 (2019) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2019 The British Psychological Society

DOI: doi:10.1111/bjop.12439


Body image disturbance – a cause of distress amongst the general population and those diagnosed with various disorders – is often attributed to the media’s unrealistic depiction of ideal bodies. These ideals are strongly gendered, leading to pronounced fat concern amongst females, and a male preoccupation with muscularity. Recent research suggests that visual aftereffects may be fundamental to the misperception of body fat and muscle mass – the perceptual component of body image disturbance. This study sought to establish the influence of gender on these body aftereffects. Male and female observers were randomly assigned to one of four adaptation conditions (low-fat, high-fat, lowmuscle, and high-muscle bodies) and were asked to adjust the apparent fat and muscle levels of male and female bodies to make them appear as ‘normal’ as possible both before adaptation and after adaptation. While neither the gender of observers nor of body stimuli had a direct effect, aftereffect magnitude was significantly larger when observers viewed own-gender (compared with other-gender) stimuli. This effect, which may be due to attentional factors, could have implications for the development of body image disturbance, given the preponderance of idealized own-gender bodies in media marketed to male and female consumers.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:body image disturbance; visual aftereffects; gender
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Cognitive and computational psychology
Research Field:Sensory processes, perception and performance
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Mond, JM (Dr Jon Mond)
ID Code:139510
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:UTAS Centre for Rural Health
Deposited On:2020-06-18
Last Modified:2020-08-12

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