The Impact of Media on Body Image and Self-Esteem with Emphasis on Appearance Self-schema (The Case of Students at University of Isfahan)


اصفهان دانشگاه اصفهان دانشکده ادبیات و علوم انسانی گروه علوم اجتماعی


Today's world, recognized as "the age of information", is a world in which media has penetrated into all and each aspects of human life in an unavoidable way. As one of the most advanced visual media tools, Satellite TV has been increasingly accessible for Iranian public in recent years, facilitating cultural and taste changes among Iranian families. Satellite programs, advertisements and images change peoples' attitudes regarding body and believes about beauty. They contain profound impacts on peoples' understanding and perception of their bodies and their level of self-esteem to such a degree that many may actually take initiative and begin to manipulate their body in order to conform to such beauty norms and ideals. Now, women and young girls in particular, because are primarily evaluated and commended according to their physical attractiveness, are more than men inclined to try to obtain fit and attractive bodies. The present paper aims at examining the effects of media images- which promote the ideal of beauty- on body image and self-esteem. In doing so, we introduce a relatively unknown variable named appearance self-schema as a moderating variable, whose role is examined in the process of media impact on body image and self-esteem. Although various studies in the past have paid attention to the role of media in body management and body image, fewer studies have actually considered the role that variables such as appearance self-schema can play. This variable is crucially important not only for understanding experiences of body image in everyday life, but for understanding the amount of investment people have in believes and assumptions related to importance, significance, and influence of appearances in general.

Methods and Materials
This is a quantitative study, with experiment as its main strategy. Research sample was randomly selected from among female graduate students of the University of Isfahan who lived in University dormitory and were divided into two groups of experiment and control. Limiting research sample to on-campus students and graduate level is due to make sure of the paring principle between the two groups of experiment and control, and also to make sure that we can control the accessibility of the groups to satellite TV programs. In order to measure body image variable, Tomas Cash's (1997) standard questionnaire was used and in order to measure the level of self-esteem, Rosenberg's questionnaire. Also, appearance self-schema variable was measured using Cash's et al (2003) standard questionnaire. Media images, including pictures of attractive and bodily fit women, were sent to members of the experiment group via email as incentive to see how their perceptions might be influenced. Via pre-test, subjects' information were obtained before the incentive is put into effect, that is, scores for variables of body image, self-esteem and self-schema appearance. Then for a period of one month, members of the experiment group were sent image incentives while control group members were supposed to see no similar images. At the end and in post-test, the scores of both groups were again measured to see what changes might have happened.

Discussion of Results and Conclusions
Research findings indicate that being subject to Satellite TV images does in fact influence body image. Those subjects who watch satellite programs advertising beauty products and physical fitness or films in which attractive, beautiful and fit actors play, have a more negative attitude toward their appearance and body. This is because, we assume, seeing these models takes the standards and criteria of beauty at a higher level among subjects and makes it difficult for them to feel competent upon comparison. This upward comparison produce a negative feeling about one's appearance and body. Also, being subject to media images has a meaningful relationship with appearance self-schema in the sense that those subjects who are more subject to attractive media images obtain a higher score in appearance self-schema variable, which means appearance becomes more of a priority and centrality in their lives, pushing them toward more involvement in appearance-managing behavior. These subjects tend to interpret their life events according to appearance more than others. In fact, appearance turns into a kind of schema for them to process information and influence the interpretation of subsequent information as well. However, being subject to media images does not have a meaningful relationship with the level of self-esteem in this research. In order to account for this, we would argue that as an enduring structure, self-esteem is rather inflexible and resist influence in the face of short-term motivations. Its vacillations are not fast. Therefore, although seeing attractive media images can influence attitudes toward body and even make it negative, it is unlikely that subjects' levels of self-esteem change dramatically. As another finding, a meaningful relationship was found between appearance self-schema score and body image score. The variable of appearance self-schema indicates how much one invests in his or her physical appearance. Subjects with higher scores in appearance self-schema are individuals for whom appearance constitutes one of the most important aspects of existence and interpret most of their everyday event according to it. For these individuals appearance self-schema does have a moderating role, in the sense that the mere encounter with attractive images would not make their attitudes toward the boy more negative, but it depends on how much of an important matter the appearance is for them. In other words, those individuals for whom appearance is very important tend to become more influenced upon seeing media images.