Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

David LaPorte, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anson Long, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Margaret Reardon, Ph.D.

Abstract

Fitspiration, or fitness inspiration, features images of sculpted and fit yet also thin women engaged in exercise, often with motivational words meant to encourage the viewer. These images frequently objectify women. As objectification has become commonplace in society, women can internalize this message and see themselves from an outsider’s perspective, thereby engaging in self-objectification. Self-objectification (SO) has been categorized as both a temporary state and an enduring trait.

This study investigated the impact of fitspiration on self-objectification (SO), exercise, and exercise motivation in college-aged women. Trait SO and reasons for exercising were measured with the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale and Reasons for Exercise Inventory, respectively, and the relationship between the two was explored. Participants recorded exercise for one week, and were then randomly assigned to view images from one of four groups: fitspiration with text, fitspiration with no text, non-fitspiration with text, and non-fitspiration with no text. State SO was evaluated with the Twenty Statements Test (TST) and participants again tracked exercise for one week. Post-study and one-month follow up interviews were conducted.

Analyses suggest that trait SO is positively correlated with appearance-focused reasons for exercise, but there is no relationship between trait SO and exercise. Monitoring appearance from an onlooker’s perspective (Surveillance) moderated the relationship between fitspiration and strength/flexibility exercise. Additionally, fitspiration viewers had higher levels of state SO compared to non-fitspiration when there was no text in the images, but this finding was no longer significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. Finally, although a majority of participants agreed the study impacted exercise motivation, those who endorsed this actually exercised less after viewing the images compared to those who did not.

It appears that trait SO, specifically Surveillance, may interact with fitspiration and text in different ways to affect strength and flexibility exercise. Surprisingly, for state SO, there was no difference between images when text was included. When text was absent, the objectifying images resulted in higher levels of state SO compared to less objectified images. These findings suggest that fitspiration does not necessarily increase exercise, but appears to have an impact on SO in different ways.

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