Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Sumana Chattopadhyay

Second Advisor

Robert Griffin

Third Advisor

Lynn Turner

Abstract

Researchers have posited for decades that media, and magazines in particular, have a negative impact on women's body satisfaction. However, that relationship is a complex one. Several theories, including sociocultural and social comparison theories, have been used to better understand the relationship.

Furthermore, with advances in technology, magazine images of women are now fictional portrayals rather than reflections of reality. This project addresses the question of the extent to which women perceive magazine images to be real and whether there is a relationship between that perception of reality and body satisfaction.

Perceived reality as it relates to magazine images is an area that has been relatively neglected by researchers, so the present study investigated the issue in an exploratory manner. To that end, a new scale was created to measure perceived reality of magazine images of women. It was implemented in an online survey of women ages 18 to 34. Data were gathered using a convenience sample.

Three lines of analysis were then conducted. First, after identifying the most effective items, the reliability, face validity, and convergent validity of the perceived reality of magazine images of women scale were largely established. Within the validity analysis, a confirmatory factor analysis of the scale was conducted which illuminated three factors: real world, factuality, and emotional involvement. A summated version of the new scale was then created for further analysis.

In a second line of analysis, inconsistent and weak relationships were found between perceived reality of magazine images of women and body satisfaction. This result is discussed in light of sociocultural and social comparison theories. In a final line of analysis, consistently moderate relationships were found with the new scale and awareness of digital alteration. The impact of this finding on helping understand what makes up reality judgments is discussed.