This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the Effects of Reality Television on Body Image: Does Feminist Identification Matter?




English, Erin

Type of Degree



Counseling Psychology


Research has demonstrated that sociocultural factors exert tremendous influence on the development and maintenance of body dissatisfaction (Thompson et al., 1999). The mass media generally, and reality television in particular, represent potent transmitters and reinforcers of sociocultural standards of attractiveness. The present study investigated the influence of brief exposure to various types of reality television programming on women’s state body image. In addition, the relationships among feminist identification, self-reported viewership of reality television programs, body image investment, and internalization of sociocultural standards of attractiveness were explored. Results indicated that exposure to reality competition and dating programs was associated with a significant decrease in state body satisfaction, while exposure to a reality drama program and sitcom was not associated with decreased state body satisfaction. In addition, participants who placed high importance on their identity as women reported that body image was of great importance to their self-concept. On the other hand, feminist ideology was not a predictor of body image investment. Self-reported reality television viewership was not found to predict internalization of sociocultural standards of attractiveness, while feminist identification (as measured both by the importance to identity of gender and feminist ideology) did predict internalization. The importance of identification as a woman, when examined independently of the measure of feminist ideology, was a significant predictor of reality television viewership.