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Visual diet versus associative learning as mechanisms of change in body size preferences.

Boothroyd, L.G. and Tovée, M.J. and Pollett, T. (2012) 'Visual diet versus associative learning as mechanisms of change in body size preferences.', PLoS ONE., 7 (11). e48691.

Abstract

Systematic differences between populations in their preferences for body size may arise as a result of an adaptive ‘prepared learning’ mechanism, whereby cues to health or status in the local population are internalized and affect body preferences. Alternatively, differences between populations may reflect their ‘visual diet’ as a cognitive byproduct of mere exposure. Here we test the relative importance of these two explanations for variation in body preferences. Two studies were conducted where female observers were exposed to pictures of high or low BMI women which were either aspirational (healthy, attractive models in high status clothes) or non-aspirational (eating disordered patients in grey leotards), or to combinations thereof, in order to manipulate their body-weight preferences which were tested at baseline and at post–test. Overall, results showed good support for visual diet effects (seeing a string of small or large bodies resulted in a change from pre- to post-test whether the bodies were aspirational or not) and also some support for the associative learning explanation (exposure to aspirational images of overweight women induced a towards preferring larger bodies, even when accompanied by equal exposure to lower weight bodies in the non-aspirational category). Thus, both influences may act in parallel.

Item Type:Article
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048691
Publisher statement:© 2012 Boothroyd et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:25 April 2014
Date of first online publication:November 2012
Date first made open access:No date available

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