Slender women worry about packing on extra weight, say Brigham Young University researchers who used MRI technology to observe what happened in the brain when people viewed images of complete strangers.
If the stranger happened to be overweight and female, it surprisingly activated an area in women's brains that processes identity and self-reflection. Men did not show signs of any self-reflection in similar situations.
"These women have no history of eating disorders and project an attitude that they don't care about body image," said Mark Allen, a BYU neuroscientist. "Yet under the surface is an anxiety about getting fat and the centrality of body image to self."
The results appear in Personality and Individual Differences.
When anorexic and bulimic women view an overweight stranger, the brain's self-reflection center – known as the medial prefrontal cortex – lights up in ways that suggest extreme unhappiness and in some cases, self-loathing.
The motivation for this new study was to establish a point of reference among a control group of women who scored in the healthy range on eating disorder diagnostic tests. Surprisingly, even this control group exhibited what the authors call "sub-clinical" issues with body image.
"Although these women's brain activity doesn't look like full-blown eating disorders, they are much closer to it than men are," Allen said.
The authors note that women are bombarded with messages that perpetuate the thin ideal, and the barrage changes how they view themselves.
"Many women learn that bodily appearance and thinness constitute what is important about them, and their brain responding reflects that," Spangler said. "I think it is an unfortunate and false idea to learn about oneself and does put one at greater risk for eating and mood disorders."
Tyler E. Owens, Mark D. Allen, Diane L. Spangler, 'An fMRI study of self-reflection about body image: Sex differences', Personality and Individual Differences, May 2010 48(7), 849-854; doi:10.1016/j.paid.2010.02.012
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- Will Holding Thermal Printer Paper Really Send Your BPA Levels Soaring?
- The Quote Of The Week - Shocked And Disappointed
- As The Weather Changes, So Do Beliefs About Climate Change
- ECFA Workshop: Planning For The High Luminosity LHC
- Limiting Global Warming To 2°C: The Philosophy And The Science
- Great Earthquakes Doubled In The Most Recent 10 Year Period - What That Means
- "I have no time for you. Either learn how to have a decent, mature conversation without resorting..."
- "The past 12 months—October 2013–September 2014—was the warmest 12-month period among all..."
- "Do you really think science20 readers are all so stupid that they are going to fall for Climate..."
- "'Mememine' is a well known astro-turfer for the denial industry. He spams the same identical gish..."
- "I have heard (from someone who worked there) of a laboratory in a country far, far away where they..."
- National Wildlife Refuge System bans on GMOs and neonics lack transparency, scientific rationale
- Want better sperm? Eat more pesticides
- Beyond universal donors, some people are programed with no blood type at all
- Anti-conventional ag movement spurs Big Ag to look to organic pesticides
- Can people really inherit memories?
- An end to fat shaming? The 50 year DNA mystery of metabolic dysfunction may soon be solved
- New policymaking tool for shift to renewable energy
- Teens whose parents exert more psychological control have trouble with closeness, independence
- Two days later: Adolescents' conflicts with family spill over to school, vice versa
- Children in high-quality early childhood education are buffered from changes in family income
- 'Breath test' shows promise for diagnosing fungal pneumonia
Books By Writers Here