This research is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant (RPG-2013-113).
Pearl Lagoon Basin is an area of Nicaragua which is currently in the
process of receiving mains electricity for the first time. Those
living in the remote villages of the Lagoon have no access to the
internet, or magazines, and can only access visual media through
television. As such, this represents a remarkable research
opportunity for assessing the impact of visual media on perceptions of
beauty, particularly the extent to which residents of the region adopt
a preference for slim female figures. This issue is of key importance as preference for slim female figures have been implicated as a factor in disordered eating and body dissatisfaction seen in many Westernised culture.Project studies:
The project has a series of studies designed to investigate different
aspects of the link between television and beauty ideals.Study 1: How do levels of access to television affect preferences for female body weight?
study compared individuals in three locations with differing levels of
access to television. We found that those living in the capital city of
Nicaragua showed preferences for female body weight very similar to
Western sample, favouring slim figures. In
contrast, those who had begun to access television only within the last
few years preferred significantly larger bodies. Those with no
day-to-day access to television had the strongest preferences for
'overweight' female figures. When we concentrated our analyses on
the women in the Pearl Lagoon Basin, we found that recent television
consumption was the strongest predictor of their body weight
preferences and in some analyses also predicted the likelihood of them trying
to lose weight.
Published results can be found here: Boothroyd et al. (2016) British Journal of Psychology. (Open access version)
Study 2: How do nutritional stress and television access interact in body weight preferences?
Non-Western cultures may also prefer larger bodies due to a greater risk of insufficient food. Larger figures indicate a healthy person with good food resources.
In Study 2 we are recruiting participants from areas of the
Lagoon basin which differ in television access, but have very similar
diets - or who have very similar television access but very different
diets. By comparing across these villages, we will be able to
assess the extent to which television access and nutrition may
independantly, or interactively, affect preferences for body weight.
Published results can be found here: Jucker et al. (2017) Scientific Reports
Study 3: How does television access affect body satisfaction in women and girls?
A greater discrepancy between the perceived 'ideal' female shape, and
ones own body shape, can lead to dissatisfaction and negative feelings
about ones body. This study is examining the extent to which
villages with different levels of television access exhibit different
levels of body dissatisfaction. We are assessing this in both
adult women, and in children, who will be assessed annually over three
years. Body dissatsifaction starts to develop very
early in childhood in the West. This research will help us to understand
the role the media may play in these problems, in both developing nations like Nicaragua, and in the West.
Study 4: What is the wider context of television access in the Lagoon?
our primary interest in television is the fact that it allows the
villagers to see and engage with Westernised beauty ideals for the
first time, television also brings many broader benefits to the
communities. This study is using interviews and observations to
understand the role the television plays in the villages of the Lagoon
and how the residents feel about the programs and content they watch.
We are also considering the modes of 'consumption' that the
villagers engage in, and how television fits into their lives.