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J Pers Assess. 1986 Summer;50(2):290-301.

Body weight and body image among college women: perception, cognition, and affect.


This study examined the relations between body weight and multiple parameters of body image in a nonclinical sample. Thirty-six female undergraduate students with stable body weights served as subjects; 12 were underweight, 12 were normal weight, and 12 were overweight, as determined using recent normative tables. Each subject responded to a general weight information questionnaire and to the Body-Self Relations Questionnaire, a standardized instrument assessing affective, cognitive, and behavioral components of appearance-related body image. A newly developed apparatus and procedure for estimating body size, the Body Image Detection Device, was utilized for perceptual and cognitive measures of body image. Each subject estimated and also subjectively appraised the width of her own body at five points and that of a realistic female mannequin. A caliper was used to record actual widths, and a standard laboratory scale and rule measured weight and height. The general finding of the study was that the perceptual, affective, and cognitive components of body image differed as a function of body weight, but the nature of the differences varied with the measure employed. The pattern of results for the perceptual measure suggest a cautious view of its reliability and validity. The multidimensional approach of our study, in marked contrast to earlier fractionated studies, offers a more integrated perspective on body image and provides new directions for future research.

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