Can Our View of the “Ideal” Body Change?

In many places in the world, the ideal body can change. From different skin tones to face shapes to how much fat one has. These don’t only change from location to location, but also change throughout time.

Two new studies wanted to look into how malleable our idea of the ideal body is.

In both studies female participants, 19-75 years old, viewed 90 different arrays of 9 computer generated bodies. The researchers, based on prior research, chose four “ideal” body types. These body types were slightly underweight and normal weight, based on BMI. They also added five more bodies that were smaller or larger than the ideal bodies.

The different arrays had different proportions of bodies, some that were more “ideal”, or some that were mostly larger than ideal, etc.  After viewing each array, the participants were asked to select a body that was closets to their ideal from those shown.

The researchers found that participants chose larger ideal bodies when there were more larger bodies in the array, but it tended to be closer to normal weight. When there were more smaller bodies, the opposite happened. The participants chose bodies smaller bodies that were closer to slightly underweight.

These results show that our interpretation of an “ideal” body is pretty malleable based on the context. However, it is not extremely malleable, as the results showed, participants ideals still fell pretty close to the center.

Read More:
Study: Aniulis, E., Sharp, G., & Thomas, N. A. (2021). The ever-changing ideal: The body you want depends on who else you’re looking at. Body Image, 36, 218-229.

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