A study to examine the impact of our consumer culture on a women's body image has been published in the British Journal of Social Psychology . It looks closely at how the desire for affluence influences societies values and the associated tendency to link physical appearance and material possessions to success and fame.
"Not all women are affected in the same way by looking at idealised media models, and it has therefore been important for research to identify factors that make some women more vulnerable than others to feeling negative about their body when exposed to such media images," said lead author Eleni-Marina Ashikali.
"We found that women focus more strongly on their appearance when materialistic values are highlighted momentarily to them through priming. At the same time, their awareness of how their bodies fall short of the idealised image is heightened during this priming process, particularly for women who are already materialistic. This means that the influence of materialism is a further factor that makes women more vulnerable to negative body image," said Ashikali.
The suggestion is that media literacy educational initiatives and policy changes by the advertising industry should take individual as well as culturally induced values and aspirations into account.
"Women would benefit from gaining greater awareness of current marketing strategies, as well as becoming more critical of the images and messages conveyed by materialistic media, said Ashikali.
"Our work highlights the need for less emphasis on materialistic messages in the marketing of goods and products, as well as on the promised unrealistic benefits of owning a particular good," she concluded.