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Does the media distort our perception of beauty?

From art through to advertisements, we see images of attractive people. Are these images chosen simply because they reflect what we already find appealing, or are they reshaping our perceptions?

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Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Psychology

Douglas Kenrick    Psychology Professor
Mostly Agree
Our research suggests that our brains don't discount the women on the cover of Cosmo even when subjects know these women are models. Subjects judge an average attractive woman as less desirable as a date after just having seen models.
01 Jul 2001    Source

Miscellaneous Experts

Shelly Grabe    Social Science Professor
We've demonstrated that it doesn't matter what the exposure is, whether it's general TV watching in the evening, or magazines, or ads showing on a computer. If the image is appearance-focused and sends a clear message about a woman's body as an object, then it's going to affect women.
12 May 2008    Source

Experts In Feminism

Naomi Wolf    Author, Feminist, Political Consultant
[The beauty myth] ranks women according to how they compare with an artificially, rather than biologically, established appearance standard. ... I contend that this obsession with beauty in the Western world—which has intensified in my lifetime—is, in fact. the last way men can defend themselves against women claiming power.
24 Jun 1991    Source

Experts In Politics

Kate Ellis    Politician, Australia
I don't know whether its the government's job to ban them (digitally enhanced images) but I do think we need to have a transparent system where people realise the models in those pictures don't look like that themselves and disclosing when there's been altered or enhanced images.
05 Oct 2008    Source

Experts In Psychology

Devendra Singh    Psychology Professor
Mostly Disagree
Physically attractive women are admired and handsomely paid to be models, glamorized as movie actresses, and blamed for being greatly responsible for widespread body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in young women. The argument that fairy tales and the media link physical beauty to positive attributes does not explain why children as young as 14 hours old gaze at adults judged to have attractive female faces longer than those who have unattractive faces.
01 Jul 2006    Source

Miscellaneous Experts

Steve Thomsen    Communications Professor
Mostly Disagree
[Our research] supports our perception that these magazines may be more of a perpetuating factor than a causal factor. It seems that young women who already have eating disordered attitudes and thoughts are turning to the publications for support.
01 Sep 2001    Source

Experts In Seduction

Heartiste    Pickup Artist
I was always amused by people – especially women who seem to have a universal knee-jerk distaste for the idea that beauty can be measured & ranked – who believed that culture, or the media, or Hollywood, or parents, or peers, or the magic nose goblin, were somehow responsible for what gives men boners. The religion of cultural conditioning is as cultic as any organized religion. It has many adherents because, like traditional religions, it appeals to false hopes and placates with soothing lies.
27 Nov 2007    Source

Experts In Psychology

Nancy Etcoff    Psychology Researcher
What was biologically advantageous became an aesthetic preference. ... [Individual tastes, historical periods and, most especially, particular cultures have certainly influenced - and, in the case of cultures, exploited - these preferences, but they didn't create them, any more than] Coca-Cola or McDonald's created our cravings for sweet or fatty foods.
21 Mar 1999    Source


Add Your TakeOnIt (click to expand, no login required)
1 Point      Michelle      11 Mar 2011      Stance on Question: Mostly Agree
Thought you might enjoy this video make about how the media influences our perceptions on beauty. The video was made for a media class.


1 Point      the27th      18 Jun 2010      Stance on Question: Mostly Disagree
Wrong way to think about the question.

The media affects the perception of beauty -- the media and everything else. Conversations with friends, your neighbors, the books you read, your own deliberate efforts all affect what you perceive as beautiful. Perception is manipulable. It depends on the environment in which you immerse yourself. (Personal example -- since I started hanging out with jocks more, I began to find athleticism more attractive, in men and women.)

To talk about "the media" determining beauty, as though it's a monolithic entity, is particularly stupid right now, when we don't have a monoculture, and old media is actually on the wane. We're really not all passively influenced by the tastes of three magazine editors, if we ever were.

And as for eating disorders -- the genuinely ill are ill. Taking away the magazines won't make them well.

1 Point      Clive      05 Mar 2009      Stance on Question: Disagree
At first I thought I'd have to agree but after actually thinking about. No I really don't think the media has the power to distort what we see as beauty. Sure the hype can affect what we think of beauty for a little while. For example if we were told through a flood of magazines and media that a piece of artwork was great, some would follow that and pay big $'s for it, but eventually if it was actually shit art it would loose it's value. However, great art like the Mona Lisa will always and forever be a great piece of art. I think the same applies to beauty. Beautiful people are beautiful people, art and advertising can't change that, at least, not in the long run.

0 Points      Benja      05 Mar 2009      General Comment
Nice comparison with art.

0 Points      JCBartlett      04 Mar 2009      Stance on Question: Disagree
I don't believe the media distorts our perception of beauty.
I think it portrays the perception of beauty we already have back to us.

Beauty IS skin deep.
That's the way it is.

0 Points      Benja      05 Mar 2009      General Comment
Scientists claim beauty is a signifier of evolutionarily beneficial traits. Given that they might be right, this implies beauty is a matter of survival and reproduction, a matter which is difficult to dismiss as skin deep.