The Findings of a Research Establish A Connection Correlated Women’s Visual Habits on Instagram and Their Body Image

It is no secret that social media is now an ingrained aspect of the daily lives of many. Social media connects various large groups of ethnically and racially diverse identities globally. It also opens the threat of being subjected to harmful images and perceptions. A rising adverse consequence of using social media that has been internalized by many is when individuals compare themselves to idealized body images and engage in social comparison, resulting in a negative perception of themselves and a decrease in self-esteem.

Researchers have claimed Instagram promotes these harmful body-image issues as a social media platform centering images. Computers in Human Behavior published a research in which they monitored the eye movements of women as they scrolled through Instagram photos to draw the correlation between their visual habits and their body perception.

They used eye-tracking, a technology that assesses people’s interaction with pictures, analyzing whether they use top-down or bottom-up processing.

Graham G. Scott and his associates recruited 60 women who attended university. 93% used Instagram, while 7% did not. However, they were aware of the platform. They presented them with pictures showing either only the faces of the bodies of females categorized as underweight, average weight, or overweight.

They showed them a photo array designed to resemble the Instagram mobile app’s layout using the 3 x 4 grid. Within the grid, there were two photos for each condition. They asked them to rank their body satisfaction as the eye-tracker tracked their eye movements.

They observed attentional bias for average faces and underweight body types, denoting that the participants viewed them for an extended time and were more prone to focus on them. This confirmed the existing norms’ preference for average faces and skinny bodies in the beauty industry.

They observed pictures of bodies for an extended duration more often than photos of faces, presumably as they indicate a person's weight more than their face.

Results showed that a person’s body perception can influence the pictures they choose to look at and the duration. Those participants who were unhappy with their looks visually ignored skinny body types. The eye-tracker helped prove that the pictures stimulated bottom-up processing. Whereas, top-down processing was influenced by personal attitudes. This suggests that bottom-up processing begins with basic information that gradually constructs a complete understanding or perception which the raw sensory input we receive causes. Top-down processing consists of using what we know and expect to decipher new input.

Bottom-up processing resulted in participants noticing things like body shape and body parts, affecting the duration and frequency. In contrast, top-down processing determined their feelings about themselves and how they influenced the images they viewed. When one of them was anxious about her body type, she avoided viewing pictures of underweight women.

The research helped in grasping how Instagram affects women’s visual habits. However, the study had weaknesses as it primarily recruited women and used pictures of females, causing gender bias in both the stimuli and sample.

Moreover, they used pictures with no captions when previous studies revealed that they were mediating. Nonetheless, the findings of this research offer a valuable understanding of the processes involved in potentially harmful and vicious cycles encouraged by these digital sites. Having viewed such pictures causes social comparison, along with individuals comparing them to themselves in a way that increases personal satisfaction.

As a result, this can foster a tendency to focus on more harmful negative triggers.

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