4 June 2010

Beauty is in the eye of beholder, or a few hundred psychologists, as will be the case during an international conference in Bristol, England from June 22 – 23.

The UQ School of Psychology will be well represented at Appearance Matters, with three of its researchers presenting at the event.

Dr Fiona Barlow is presenting on discrimination towards overweight and obese people; Renee Fletcher will discuss reactions to average-size fashion models; and Phillippa Diedrichs will explain why you don’t have to be ultra-muscular to be a successful male model.

Dr Barlow’s study involved giving a lecture on obesity, weight stigma and the reasons people gain weight to undergraduate psychology students.

After being provided with this information, participants were much less judgmental towards overweight and obese people.

“Overweight and obese individuals often face discrimination due to their body weight and appearance,” Dr Barlow said.

“The negative consequences of weight stigma include poor physical and psychological health, and disadvantages in interpersonal relationships, work, and education.

“These findings suggest that learning about weight stigma and the multiple factors that influence a person’s body weight may provide an effective intervention to reduce weight stigma.”

Ms Fletcher looked at whether readers of fashion magazines supported the use of average-size models in media imagery.

Analysis of an online discussion forum for a popular Australian magazine revealed that there was consumer support for calls to increase the range of body sizes portrayed.

“Concerns regarding health, the normalisation of obesity, and tokenism, however, were identified as barriers to using more average-size models and promoting positive body image more broadly,” Ms Fletcher said.

Ms Diedrichs is presenting research which showed average-size male models promoted positive body image and were equally effective in advertisements as their ultra-muscular counterparts.

“These findings contribute to a growing evidence base for the health and advertising benefits of using average-size models in media imagery,” she said.

“Furthermore, they provide support for recent calls to increase size diversity in media imagery to promote positive body image.”

A UQ PhD candidate, Ms Diedrichs recently relocated to the University of the West of England, the conference host.

She contributed to all three UQ research projects being presented at the event.

Media: Ms Diedrichs (+44 (0) 77 6092 5078, phillippa.diedrichs@uwe.ac.uk), Dr Barlow (07 3365 6421, f.barlow@psy.uq.edu.au), Ms Fletcher (07 3365 4466, r.fletcher@psy.uq.edu.au) or Penny Robinson at UQ Communications (07 3365 9723, penny.robinson@uq.edu.au)