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

Brooks, KR, Keen, E, Sturman, D, Mond, JM ORCID: 0000-0002-0410-091X, Stevenson, RJ and Stephen, ID 2019 , 'Muscle and fat aftereffects and the role of gender: Implications for body image disturbance' , British Journal of Psychology , pp. 1-20 , doi:

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Body image disturbance – a cause of distress amongst the general population and thosediagnosed with various disorders – is often attributed to the media’s unrealistic depictionof ideal bodies. These ideals are strongly gendered, leading to pronounced fat concernamongst females, and a male preoccupation with muscularity. Recent research suggeststhat visual aftereffects may be fundamental to the misperception of body fat and musclemass – the perceptual component of body image disturbance. This study sought toestablish the influence of gender on these body aftereffects. Male and female observerswere 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 musclelevels of male and female bodies to make them appear as ‘normal’ as possible both beforeadaptation and after adaptation. While neither the gender of observers nor of bodystimuli had a direct effect, aftereffect magnitude was significantly larger when observersviewed own-gender (compared with other-gender) stimuli. This effect, which may be dueto attentional factors, could have implications for the development of body imagedisturbance, given the preponderance of idealized own-gender bodies in media marketedto male and female consumers.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Brooks, KR and Keen, E and Sturman, D and Mond, JM and Stevenson, RJ and Stephen, ID
Keywords: body image disturbance; visual aftereffects; gender
Journal or Publication Title: British Journal of Psychology
Publisher: British Psychological Soc
ISSN: 0007-1269
DOI / ID Number:
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© 2019 The British Psychological Society

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