project has brought together Psychologists
and Anthropologists at Durham and Newcastle Universities, to study the
impacts of television on beauty ideals in the Pearl Lagoon Basin of
Project Leader: Prof
, Durham University
, University of Lincoln
Dr Mark Jamieson
research is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project
Pilot data were collected with funding from the Centre for Coevolution of
Biology and Culture
JLJ was a visiting researcher at Universidad de las Regiones Autónomas de la Costa Caribe Nicaragüense.
All images copyright Jean-Luc Jucker
Pearl Lagoon Basin is an area of Nicaragua which during our research was in the
process of receiving mains electricity for the first time.
living in the remote villages of the Lagoon had no access to the
internet at the time, nor magazines, and could only access visual media through
television. As such, this represented 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
The project has a series of studies designed to investigate different
aspects of the link between television and beauty ideals.
How do levels of
access to television affect preferences for female body weight?
Jucker et al. (2020).
This paper used
three different approaches to
provide convincing evidence that television is changing preferences. A
cross-secitonal study of 300 individuals in 7 villages showed
that watching TV predicted a preference for thinner and
curvier women. This was also true when looking at within-individual
change in preferences from year to year amongst a small community who
were tested multiple times. Finally, an experimental study showed that
viewing high or low weight models on a laptop actively changed
villagers' preferences, as is also seen in the laboratory in the UK.
et al. (2018)
men created their 'ideal woman'
using computergraphic software on a laptop, this in higher-media
villages prefered female figures which were slimmer, and with larger
breasts than in other villages. Follow up focus groups suggested that
movement was more important than static appearance when men were
judging attractiveness. Our participants suggested that they favoured
body shapes which emphasised the movement of the lower body in walking
How do nutritional
stress and television access interact in body weight preferences?
et al. (2017)
Some non-Western populations may also prefer larger
bodies due to a greater
risk of insufficient food. Larger figures indicate a healthy person
with good food resources. We therefore tested in villages which had
high levels of nutritional stress and low media
access, high nutritional stress and high TV access, and a vilalge with
good nutrition and high TV access. We found that TV consumption
remained important to predicting body size preferences across these
communities, while measures of nutrition had very little impact.
How does television
access affect body satisfaction in women and girls?
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 assessed this in both
adult women, and in children who were 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 more diverse populations. Results will be submitted for
publication in 2020.