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Posts Tagged ‘dysmorphophobia

Beauty Bias: People Love The Their Liking

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Physical attractiveness is important in choosing whom to date. Good looking people are not only popular targets for romantic pursuits, they themselves also tend to flock together with more attractive others. Does this mean then that more attractive versus less attractive people wear a different pair of lens when evaluating others’ attractiveness?

Columbia University marketing professor, Leonard Lee, and colleagues, George Loewenstein (Carnegie Mellon University), Dan Ariely (MIT) and James Hong and Jim Young (, decided to test this theory in the realm of an online dating site. The site allows members to rate others on their level of physical attractiveness.

Lee and colleagues analyzed two data sets from — one containing members’ dating requests, and the other containing the attractiveness ratings of other members. Both data sets also included ratings of members’ own attractiveness as rated by other members.

The results, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, are revealing. Consistent with previous research, people with similar levels of physical attractiveness indeed tend to date each other, with more attractive people being more particular about the physical attractiveness of their potential dates.

Furthermore, people prefer to date others who are moderately more attractive than them.

Compared to females, males are more influenced by how physically attractive their potential dates are, but less affected by how attractive they themselves are, when deciding whom to date. Also, regardless of how attractive people themselves are, they seem to judge others’ attractiveness in similar ways, supporting the notion that we have largely universal, culturally independent standards of beauty (e.g. symmetric faces).

These results indicate that people’s own attractiveness does not affect their judgment of others’ attractiveness. People of different physical attractiveness levels might instead vary the importance they place on different desirable qualities in their dates.

Lee and colleagues conducted a follow-up speed-dating study in which more attractive people placed more weight on physical attractiveness in selecting their dates, while less attractive people placed more weight on other qualities (e.g. sense of humor). Much like the famous line from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, people find a way to love the ones they can be with.


If I’m Not Hot, are You Hot or Not?
Physical Attractiveness Evaluations and Dating Preferences as a Function of Own Attractiveness

Columbia Business School
Carnegie Mellon University – Department of Social and Decision Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Sloan School of Management

November 1, 2007
Prior research has established that people’s own physical attractiveness affects their selection of romantic partners. The current work provides further support for this effect and also examines a different yet related question: when less attractive people accept less attractive dates, do they persuade themselves that those they choose to date are more physically attractive than others perceive them to be? Our analysis of data from the popular website suggests that this is not the case: less attractive people do not delude themselves into thinking that their dates are more physically attractive than others perceive them to be.

see also:

Beauty is in the ‘we’ of the beholder: Greater agreement on facial attractiveness among close relations


Written by huehueteotl

February 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Size Does Not Matter, Thinking Does…

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… at least when health prospects are concerned. In a study to examine the impact of desired body weight on the number of unhealthy days subjects report over one month, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that the desire to weigh less was a more accurate predictor of physically and mentally unhealthy days, than body mass index (BMI). In addition, the desire to lose weight was more predictive of unhealthy days among Whites than among African-Americans or Hispanics, and among women than among men.

After controlling for actual BMI and age, the researchers found that men who wished to lose 1 percent, 10 percent, and 20 percent of their body weight, respectively, reported 0.1, 0.9 and 2.7 more unhealthy days per month than those who were happy with their weight. Among women, the corresponding increase in numbers of reported unhealthy days was 0.1, 1.6 and 4.3. Persons who were happy with their weight experienced fewer physically unhealthy days (3.0 vs 3.7) and mentally unhealthy days (2.6 vs 3.6) compared with persons unhappy with their weight.

“Our data suggest that some of the obesity epidemic may be partially attributable to social constructs that surround ideal body types,” said Peter Muennig, MD, MPH, Mailman School of Public Health assistant professor of Health Policy and Management. “Younger persons, Whites, and women are disproportionately affected by negative body image concerns, and these groups unduly suffer from BMI-associated morbidity and mortality.”

Approximately 66% of the more than 150,000 U.S. adults studied wanted to lose weight, and about 26% were satisfied with their current weight. With respect to BMI, 41% of normal weight people, 20% of overweight people, and 5% of obese people were happy with their weight. Older persons were also more likely to feel positively about their weight than were younger persons. However, in all models, perceived difference was a stronger predictor than was BMI of mentally and physically unhealthy days.

The researchers emphasize that there is a large body of evidence suggesting that social stress adversely affects mental health as well as physical health. “Our findings confirmed that there was a positive relationship between a person’s actual weight and his or her desired weight and health, be it physical or mental,” observed Dr. Muennig.

Obesity is one of the greatest public health threats. Over 7 million quality-adjusted life years are lost annually as a result of excess body weight in the United States alone. There is evidence that discrimination against heavy people is pervasive, occurring in social settings, the workplace, and the home. These processes are likely internalized, leading to a negative body image that also may serve as a source of chronic stress.

“The data add support to our hypothesis that the psychological stress that accompanies a negative body image explains some of the morbidity commonly associated with being obese. Our finding that the desire to lose weight was a much stronger predictor of unhealthy days than was BMI further suggests that perceived difference plays a greater role in generating disease,” said Dr. Muennig.

Am J Public Health. 2008 Jan 30 [Epub ahead of print]
I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health.
Columbia University.

Objectives. We examined whether stress related to negative body image perception and the desire to lose weight explained some of the body mass index-health gradient. Methods. We used 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data to examine the impact of desired body weight, independent of actual body mass index, on the amount of physically and mentally unhealthy days by race, ethnicity, and gender. Results. The difference between actual and desired body weight was a stronger predictor than was body mass index (BMI) of mental and physical health. When we controlled for BMI and age, men who wished to lose 1%, 10%, and 20% of their body weight respectively suffered a net increase of 0.1, 0.9, and 2.7 unhealthy days per month relative to those who were happy with their weight. For women, the corresponding numbers were 0.1, 1.6, and 4.3 unhealthy days per month. The desire to lose weight was more predictive of unhealthy days among women than among men and among Whites than among Blacks or Hispanics. Conclusions. Our results raise the possibility that some of the health effects of the obesity epidemic are related to the way we see our bodies.

Written by huehueteotl

February 13, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Most College Students Wish They Were Thinner

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Most normal-weight women — almost 90 percent in a Cornell study of 310 college students — yearn to be thinner. Half of underweight women want to lose even more weight, or stay just the way they are, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, most overweight women don’t want to be thin enough to achieve a healthy weight.

According to the study, one of the few to quantify the magnitude of body-weight dissatisfaction, which was published recently in the journal Eating Behaviors, most — 78 percent — of the overweight males surveyed also want to weigh less. But of this group, almost two-thirds — 59 percent — do not want to lose enough, so the body weight they desire would still keep them overweight.

Overweight as social stigma, in a U. S. society where more than 60 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese, is bordering schizophrenia. Nonetheless, “because they don’t meet the societal ideals propagated by the media and advertising for body weight, they are often targets of discrimination within educational, workplace and health-care settings and are stigmatized as lazy, lacking self-discipline and unmotivated,” says Lori Neighbors, Ph.D. ’07, who conducted the research with Jeffery Sobal, Cornell professor of nutritional sociology in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. Tragically enough, dysmorphophobic body dissatisfaction, rooting in anorexic media paradigms, leeds to selfdefying resignation, even when not looks, but health are at stake. As such, many people are dissatisfied with their bodies, says Neighbors, now an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. But the number of these individuals is ways smaller than the figures of those who are ready to attain a healthy body weight.

When the Cornell researchers assessed body weight versus the weight and shape individuals wish they had, they found that:

  • Men and women are similarly dissatisfied with their weight by an average of about 8 pounds, though women are much more dissatisfied with their bodies. Men have more mixed desires — some want to lose weight while others want to gain weight.
  • Most of the normal-weight women who want to weigh less desire a weight still within the normal-weight range. However, 10 percent want to weigh what experts deem as officially underweight.
  • Half of the underweight women want to stay the same or lose weight. “The majority of underweight females, closer in body size to the thin cultural ideal, consider their body weight ‘about right,'” said Sobal, even though experts have deemed these body weights unhealthful.
  • Overweight women want to weigh less. But about half want a body weight that would continue to make them overweight.

The findings suggest “that the idealized body weight and shape, especially among underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders, are not in accordance with population-based standards defining healthy body weight.”

In a society in which excess weight is the norm, it’s vital, say the researchers, to better understand body dissatisfaction and how this dissatisfaction impacts weight-management efforts.

“While both men and women express some degree of body dissatisfaction, a surprising proportion of people with less healthy body weights — underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders — do not idealize a body weight that would move them to a more healthy state,” said Neighbors.

Eat Behav. 2007 Dec;8(4):429-39. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

Prevalence and magnitude of body weight and shape dissatisfaction among university students.

Neighbors LA, Sobal J.

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, 351A Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca, New York 14853, United States.

Although prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing, prevailing sociocultural influences lead females to desire a thin body and males a muscular body, often resulting in body dissatisfaction (BD) because many cannot achieve the cultural ideal. This study examined the magnitude of BD in university undergraduates (n=310). Body weight dissatisfaction (BWD) was measured as the difference between current and idealized body weight; body shape dissatisfaction (BSD) as the difference between and current and idealized body shape. Overall, females expressed greater BD than males. Overweight individuals expressed the greatest BWD and BSD, yet half desired a weight that would maintain their overweight body mass index (BMI) classification. Normal weight females desired a slightly thinner, lighter body, while desires among normal weight males were mixed. Underweight females and normal weight males expressed little BWD and BSD, commonly idealizing a body weight maintaining their BMI classification. However, results may suggest a shift in body size ideals in an era of prevalent obesity, with overweight males and females expressing less BD and few normal weight individuals, particularly females, idealizing a very thin body.

Written by huehueteotl

November 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm