Presentation on theme: "Does Appearance Matter? An introduction LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAMME This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. 527463-LLP-1-2012-1-UK-LEONARDO-LMP."— Presentation transcript:
Does Appearance Matter? An introduction LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAMME This project has been funded with support from the European Commission LLP UK-LEONARDO-LMP. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.
Goals of this module: To be aware of: – how appearance influences our judgements of one another – the nature, frequency and consequences of appearance-related concerns
Optional activity: Do you think appearance matters in the context of vocational training? 1.Put up your hand if you think it does 2.Put up your hand if you think it doesn’t 3.Put up your hand if you’re not sure or don’t know Discussion: Why?
‘Appearance’ is a topic that everyone can associate with in some way. Although some people place more importance on it than others, we all have an appearance of some kind - we can’t choose to switch it on or off and, unless we have an identical twin, our appearance is unique.
Appearance plays a key role in a host of everyday activities including: 1. How we recognise ourselves and other people. 2. The first impressions we make of other people, and the impressions that they make of us, for example: at a job interview on a date the first day in a new class
3. How we present ourselves to the world, for example through: the photos of ourselves that we choose to put on Facebook & social networking websites our choice of clothing our body posture (such as whether we stand upright, or whether we slouch) our expressions and body language (for example, if we smile or avoid eye contact with other people).
First impressions count: When we meet someone for the first time, we take in a lot of information about how they look. For example their: - gender - age - size - skin colour - height - hair style - complexion - any noticeable scarring - any tattoos
We often use this visual information to make judgements about them, using stereotypes based on their appearance. Sometimes these judgements are right, but often they are limited or wrong, and we need to look beyond someone’s physical appearance if we are to know what they are really like as a person.
For example, when Susan Boyle appeared on the television programme ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, the audience judged her on her appearance and, on the basis of their first impressions, assumed that she wouldn’t be able to sing. Watch this video and look at the audience’s reaction. How did you react when you first saw her? Wyk
Her first album sold more than 9 million copies in 6 weeks.
The ways in which people attempt to manage how they are perceived by others is known as self-presentation.
Just as we judge other people on the basis of their appearance, so they often make judgements about us based on what we look like, too. Discussion questions: – How do you think other people might perceive you when they meet you for the first time? – What self-presentation tactics, if any, do you use?
Interest in appearance is not new or specific to any particular culture. Throughout history there are examples of people’s fascination with appearance and the ways in which they have tried to alter how they look, to influence the perception that other people have of them.
For example: Cleopatra is believed to have used make-up In Elizabethan times, both men and women used powder to make their faces look very pale, which was considered a sign of beauty. However, the ingredients in the powder they used resulted in lead poisoning. Tight corsets have been used for centuries to create the illusion of a smaller waist.
Satisfaction with appearance Whilst some people are happy with their appearance, many others are unhappy with some aspect of the way they look. Research has found that more than 90% of women have negative thoughts about their appearance every week, and more than half don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without make up on.
Who has appearance-related concerns? It is often assumed that appearance- related concerns are only an issue for women, but research suggests around 60% of men report being dissatisfied with how they look, and this figure is increasing. In the US, the number of men undergoing a cosmetic surgical procedure to alter their appearance increased by 106% between 1997 and 2012.
Appearance is not only a concern for young adults. Research has found that children as young as 5 and adults over the age of 80 are worried about how they look.
What do people believe about appearance? Some people think they will be happier and have a better life (for example have a successful career, a loving partner, good friends, a nice house, a fast car) if they are more attractive and have a better body or long, shining hair.
In Tiggemann, M., Gardiner, M. & Slater, A. (2000). I think people think oh I have to look like that because they think that they will have a perfect life as well. If I’m beautiful, if I’m attractive, if I’m skinny then everything else in my life has to come up as well, like my school grades will come up, I’ll get a boyfriend, you know I’ll have a great social life
These beliefs are known as ‘Beauty Myths’ and research has shown they are not true: happiness and contentment are not associated with physical appearance.
Looking ‘Different’ More than 20% of the general population have an appearance that is in some way different to what is considered to be ‘the norm’. This is referred to as ‘disfigurement’, ‘visible difference’, ‘altered appearance’ or ‘unusual appearance’.
‘Visible Difference’ includes: conditions present at birth (for example cleft lip and palate) conditions that develop over time (for example the skin condition, vitiligo) the result of accidents (such a burns) the result of disease (for example the impact of cancer treatment)
Living with a visible difference can present a number of challenges, including: Being stared at Being asked questions about the difference Being avoided, because other people don’t know how to react These reactions can affect a person’s life in many ways including impacts on body image, self esteem, confidence, identity and quality of life.
It is estimated that 148 million people in Europe have some kind of visible difference. A UK survey of more than 1,200 people with a range of visible differences found that more than 65% reported high levels of concerns and anxiety about social situations, and might avoid them because of their appearance.
Optional Activity: Which of these people do you think would be most concerned about their appearance, and how do you think it would affect their life? Kathryn is a 19 year old student. She has scarring on her face, neck and shoulders as a result of a burn injury caused by a hot drink when she was 2 years old. David is 22 and is computer engineer. He has a 3cm scar on his right cheek as a result of an accident 2 years ago.
Answer: From the information you have been given, its impossible to know which person would be most concerned about their appearance. We can only know if somebody’s appearance bothers them, and if so what impact it has on their life, by asking them or watching what they do and how they interact with other people.
Perhaps surprisingly, the psychological and personal impact of a disfigurement is not associated with: The person’s age Their gender The size of the disfigurement The cause of the disfigurement. What can make a difference is how noticeable they think it is to other people, and how well they feel supported by family and friends.
Many people assume, often incorrectly, that anyone who looks different for any reason (for example has facial scarring) would be unhappy and would want to change the way they look. But there are lots of examples of people who have an unusual appearance (or visible difference) who would not want to change their looks and, despite the challenges they face, many people adjust well.
For example: James Partridge was in a fire when his car crashed when he was 18 years old. He considers his appearance to be an integral part of who he is and, after many operations, wouldn’t want to undergo more surgery to change it. Adam Pearson has a condition known as Neurofibromatosis (NF1). He has undergone more than 20 surgical procedures and, like James, considers his appearance to be an important part of who he is. (see Partridge & Pearson 2008 )
DissatisfiedSatisfied In summary, people of any appearance, age, gender or social background can be anywhere on a continuum between being very satisfied and very dissatisfied with the way they look:
Discussion question: Why do you think some people are happy with the way they look whilst others are dissatisfied? What do you think causes this dissatisfaction?
Media images Many images in the media have been air- brushed, yet people aspire to look like these images and spend a lot of time and money trying to achieve something that is probably unreal and impossible.
Activity: Watch this video, which shows how images in the media can be manipulated: A A
But the media is not the only influence on people’s views on how they look. A person’s own thoughts about appearance make a difference: – Some people think appearance is more important than others do. – Some people think others will judge them negatively because of their appearance, whilst others don’t worry about this so much.
Families & friends are also very influential through: – The attention and focus they give to appearance – How they talk about it You look great, have you dyed your hair? Have you lost weight? Does my bum look big in this?
An activity for the week ahead: Try not to get involved in negative conversations about your own, or other people’s appearance. Next time one of your friends says something like ‘urgh I feel so fat in this…’ or ‘Oh no, another grey hair!’ try to change the conversation to something more positive rather than joining in.
Is this dissatisfaction with appearance a problem? Dissatisfaction with appearance can have a number of physical, psychological, social and economic consequences. These are covered in more detail in later sessions, but they can include:
Disordered eating Excessive exercise Steroid use anxiety Reduced confidence & self esteem Avoiding social activities Financial hardship Worry by friends & family Reduced quality of life Depression Smoking to keep weight down Relationship difficulties Decisions about medical treatment Lack of exercise Seeking cosmetic surgery
For example: Disordered eating behaviours (including purging techniques such as fasting, crash dieting, vomiting, using laxatives) are associated with eating disorder development (Spear 2006): a survey of 290 women aged 45-60yrs found 14.8% reported disordered eating (Midlarsky & Nitzburg 2008) In 2007, more than 10,000 breast enlargement procedures were carried out in the UK on women aged years (Sarwer et al 2009) Boys engage in weight lifting, eat more, use food supplements and steroids to build muscle (Smolak & Stein 2010)
Optional discussion question: What do you think could be done to reduce levels of appearance-related concerns?
Optional activity: Now do you think appearance matters in the context of vocational training? 1.Put up your hand if you think it does 2.Put up your hand if you think it doesn’t 3.Put up your hand if you’re not sure or don’t know Discussion: if you’ve changed your mind during this session, what’s changed your opinion?
Summary: Having completed this module you should have an understanding of: how physical appearance influences our judgements of one another the nature, frequency and consequences of appearance-related concerns particular issues facing people who have a visible difference (disfigurement) of any kind