Date of Award

12-12-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

J. Jarry

Keywords

Appearance, Body Image, Body Image Investment, Electroencephalography, Schema, Thin Ideal

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Body image investment consists of the importance placed on appearance, and the behaviours utilized to maintain or improve appearance. Within body image investment, self-evaluative salience refers to the importance placed on appearance for self-definition. Body image investment may be conceptualized as a schema, which is a cognitive structure that organizes information. Schemata may impact how an individual reacts to stimuli. Such reactions may be viewed neurologically by recording the cortical activity of the frontal lobes with EEG, and interpreting asymmetric frontal lobe activity using the Motivational Direction Hypothesis. This hypothesis posits that greater left frontal activity is indicative of approach motivation, and greater right frontal activity is indicative of withdrawal motivation. In the present study, self-evaluative salience was investigated for a neurological substrate by recording frontal lobe activity with EEG while women viewed a slideshow of images depicting thin and overweight female celebrities. Female participants (N = 61) completed an online measure of body image investment, and then attended a laboratory session where they viewed the slideshow while having their frontal activity recorded. After controlling for BMI, only women with medium self-evaluative salience had greater left frontal activity when viewing thin images, and greater right frontal activity when viewing overweight images. Our results suggest that women low in self-evaluative salience may not process the images using an appearance schema, and women high in self-evaluative salience may experience conflicting reactions to the images based on contradicting appearance ideals. Women with medium self-evaluative salience may process the images using an appearance schema, and process the images using the most salient appearance ideal. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

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