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Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 An Experiment in Female Viewers Attentiveness to Pro-Esteem Media Messages Pierre Wilhelm Athabasca University.

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Presentation on theme: "Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 An Experiment in Female Viewers Attentiveness to Pro-Esteem Media Messages Pierre Wilhelm Athabasca University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 An Experiment in Female Viewers Attentiveness to Pro-Esteem Media Messages Pierre Wilhelm Athabasca University Lucian DinuUniversity of Louisiana Dorina MironArizona State University

2 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Pro-body esteem messages in the media and in the news 1996 Look good on your own terms! 1998 Treat your body with respect and kindness! 2000 British magazine editors banned ultra-thin models 2002 Real Women Have Curves 2006 Ugly Betty

3 Washington AEJMC Conference August, A Madrid high fashion show introduced a ban on overly thin models 2007 The Council of Fashion Designers of America announced guidelines to help models live more healthy lives Be the best you can be and celebrate your shape! Every girl deserves to see how beautiful she really is

4 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Can pro-esteem messages broadcast by the media improve female viewers body esteem? Research Question (examining viewers body-esteem effects)

5 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 At issue… Beneficial effects of pro-esteem media messages could help revert the following trends: An epidemic in low self-esteem presently affects women around the world (Cash, T. & Pruzinsky, T., 1990; Myers & Biocca 1992) Poor body-esteem is often linked to poor health behavior, including excessive dieting, strenuous exercise, diuretics, anorexia and bulimia (Koff & Rierdan, 1998). Ideals of feminine beauty portrayed in the media contribute to perpetuate a general feeling of inadecuacy among female viewers (Martin & Gentry, 1997).

6 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Hypothesis 1 Experimental Design N= 33 Pro-esteem Personal values Movie segment 5 min N= 30 Pro-thin Preferred values Movie segment 5 min N= 32 Pro-esteem Personal values TV ads 5 min. N= 31 Pro-thin Societal values TV ads 5 min Look good on your own terms! Thats who we are… real women! Reveal the Goddess in you! (Men, value the this womans appearance) Eat Sensibly! Hypothesis 4 Hypothesis 3 Hypothesis 2

7 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Health Methodology Body Friends School Mass Media Family Modified self esteem Dubois et al. (1996) questionnaire 3 Attitudes to media questionnaire 1 Attitudes to test message questionnaire 2 Health Body Friends School Mass Media Family Modified self esteem Dubois et al. (1996) questionnaire 3 what did viewer understand of test clip? what aspects of message did viewer focus on? viewers first and last impressions? viewers relationship to message? general attitudes to persuasive media messages?

8 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Results Viewers perception of body-image Positive references to viewers weight and appearance Positive reference to body image

9 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Results this effect may increase cumulatively over the course of time if commercial media companies continue to take up this cause these results lend support to marketers who strive to adopt more socially responsible ad campaigns : female viewers experienced short-term increases in body-esteem after viewing pro-esteem test clips this effect was stronger after they watched a pro- body esteem movie than pro-esteem ads pro-esteem messages appealed to female viewers and positively influenced their body esteem over a short period of time Implications

10 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Research Question (examining viewers thought processes) What aspects of pro-esteem persuasive messages did women viewers pay attention to and think about that likely affected their body-esteem?

11 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 At issue… Contemporary research examines the negative effect on female viewers body-esteem of stylized images depicting thin models Reference: Social-Comparison Theory (Festinger, 1954) female viewers pay attention to the stylized images of thin female models broadcast in the media viewing these images engages them in a process of self- comparison with an idealized feminine silhouette negative self-comparative thoughts can affect viewers body esteem and health behavior (Irving, 1990;Turner, Hamilton, Jacob, Angood, & Hovde-Dwyer, 1997) This process may not adequately explain the persuasive process at play in this experiment where female viewers paid attention to complex pro-esteem messages and to explicit & underlying arguments, and images of real men and women.

12 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 The present research set out to explain results from two theoretical perspectives and examined the correspondence between: 1)a general model of persuasion, Petty & Cacioppo (1986) s Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM): viewers level of attention to central message issues and arguments influences the strength and durability of persuasive outcome. Prediction: viewers will pay attention to the explicit and implicit persuasive appeal of pro-esteem messages (including images of women and men) in test messages in order to make sense of its key issue(s). 2)a general model of self-esteem, Leary (1999)s Sociometer Theory: viewers level of attention to underlying interpersonal messages cues engages them in social-relational thinking affecting their self esteem. Prediction: viewers will pay attention to the implicit appeals of pro-body esteem issues and engage in positive social-relational thinking.

13 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Frequency of viewers thoughts about ads N = 33Understood an explicit pro-esteem issue & engaged in social-relational thinking 18 Understood a product issue & did not engage in social-relational thinking 17 Thought about real models appearance (some were viewers critical of the image of women, but not of men) 60 EffectImproved body-esteem(+).14 N = 30Understood explicit product issue and and engage in other thoughts 18 Understood explicit goddess issue & engaged in social-relational thinking 5 Thought about thin models appearance (reinforced product issue) 40 EffectNo change in body-esteem(+).09 analysis of open questions coding rules frequency of issue and non-issue relevant thoughts reliability coefficient =.212

14 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 N =14Understood explicit pro-esteem issue & engaged in social-relational thinking 11 Understood other issue & did not engage in social-relational thinking 0 Thought about real models appearance (most viewers were critical of images of real women) 45 EffectRaised body-esteem(+).25 N = 29Understood underlying issue & engaged in social-relational thinking 11 Understood other issue & did not engage in social-relational thinking Thought about real models Appearance; this engaged viewers in: a)a social-comparison process in relation to models thin silhouette b)a social-relational process in relation to mens expectations of female beauty 27 EffectLowered body-esteem(-).20

15 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Discussion The Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986): helped provide sound predictive and general explanatory power for the phenomenon observed: the more female viewers engaged in issue-relevant thinking the more they seemed to experience strong changes in their body esteem researchers did not determine which explicit/implicit message cues triggered issue-relevant thinking; they concluded that viewers paid attention to an entire message at a time in order to make sense of an appealing issue images of men and women helped viewers relate to (contextualize) an issue; only in the Sports Illustrated segment where no clear narrative seemed apparent did the image of a thin model determine the central issue to which viewers were drawn

16 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 The Sociometer Theory (Leary, 1999) under conditions of viewers high and low attention to message information, the concept of social-relational thinking related conceptually to issue-relevant thinking this co-process affected the intensity of message effects on viewers body esteem changes in body-esteem seemingly occured as co-effects.

17 Washington AEJMC Conference August, 2007 Addressing limitations (further research) Replicate study to improve statistical results and ensure that these dont owe to chance Analyze qualitative results in order to better understand 1)issue-relevant thinking, i.e., how viewers make sense of explicit and implicit arguments (along denotative/connotative meaning) and reach a conclusion about an issue 2) social-relational thinking, i.e. how viewers examine interpersonal message cues (connotative meaning) and engage in reflective thinking about how others view and accept them Examine the role that images play in relation to 1 and 2, notably stereotypical representations of women and men Identify interpersonal message cues that trigger social-relational thinking


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