Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Eating Disorders -- Psychological aspects, Emotions and cognition, Body image, Social comparison, Eating Disorders Emotion Recognition Social Comparison Theory Body Dissatisfaction


Social Comparison Theory explains how viewing images can affect body satisfaction with two processes: upward and downward comparison. Upward comparison, which is defined as comparing oneself to a more attractive person, can result in depression and body dissatisfaction. Downward comparison, which is defined as comparing oneself to a less attractive person, can increase mood and body satisfaction. Previous research has shown that individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia, have a deficit in emotion recognition due to their high levels of body dissatisfaction. Building upon this finding, the current study was designed to examine the effect that priming normal individuals (i.e., those without an eating disorder) with pictures depicting thin women will have on these individuals' performance on an emotion recognition task. The current study included three priming groups: thin ideal prime, overweight prime, and a control prime. Exposure to images of thin women was expected to increase body dissatisfaction, whereas exposure to overweight images was expected to increase body satisfaction. After priming, all participants performed an emotion recognition task. Participants viewed a series of faces on a computer screen and chose one of four emotions (happy, sad, surprise, or anger) to describe the face. Based on previous findings, I hypothesized that the individuals primed with the thin images would take longer to respond and be less accurate, when recognizing the emotions than both the control and overweight prime. Results indicated that exposure to thin media images did not negatively affect emotion recognition performance. Yet, participants in the overweight prime group were significantly faster when recognizing emotions than both the control and thin ideal prime group

Included in

Psychology Commons