Media Influence On Body Image Psychology Essay

4914 words (20 pages) Essay in Psychology

5/12/16 Psychology Reference this

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“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” I believe this is a familiar phrase to all. It is a famous line from the story of snow white and seven dwarfs. In the story, the queen asks the mirror daily whether she is the most beautiful person in the kingdom by saying out this line. From this story, we can see that people are constantly aware and conscious about their appearance and want to look the best. We are living in world where modern technology like mobile phones, television, and the internet occupy our daily lives. And from these technologies we are able to access to the media anytime and constantly bombarded by the messages of the media. And one of the dominant message that media is portraying is ultra-thin as a benchmark of beauty.

Furthermore, body image affected by the media could also be phrase as having negative body image. It is an unrealistic view of how one sees their body. There are several symptoms that may indicate one is having a negative body image. These signs and symptoms are having obsessive self- examination in mirrors, thinking about negative comments about your body and frequently comparing the shape and the size of your body to other people’s body. Other signs may also include, envy over friends’ body and bodies of celebrity or any figures in the media. (Ekern, 2012)

Overall appearance and also body image has become more and more concerned by people. And sadly not all people look as beautiful as snow white. And most of them are not satisfied with how they look. Body image is how you feel your body is aesthetically and how attractive you perceive yourself (Nordqvist, 2012). In other words, they are images or impression that you have conceptualized on yourself. According to Glamour magazines in the Unites States, 40% women are not satisfied with their body image (Dreisbach, 2009). And according to a research, men who are being exposed to images on magazines have higher dissatisfaction with their body image (Baird & Grieve, 2006). This clearly proves that not only are women not satisfied with their body but the men are also dissatisfied with their body image.

From the statistic above, we can clearly see how media influence the perception of one’s appearance and body image. Media is defined by oxford dictionary as the main means of mass communication (television, radio, and newspapers) (Oxford University Press, 2012). It is now an influential tool to convey information, promote and advertise products. Movies, advertisement, dramas, going social networking sites, and watching videos online have become a part of a normal person’s everyday life. According to an article published by eMarketers from United States, a person spends an average of 669 minutes of their time on media. (EMarketer, 2012) These forms of media include television, going online, print media like newspaper and magazines, using mobile devices and more. 669 minutes is equivalent to 11.65 hours which is almost half a day. From the amount of time spent on media, again we can see how influential media is to the society nowadays.

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Statement of problem

Media plays a great impact on body image and can easily cause eating disorder. Children and adults learn from what they see from the media, which encourages an ultra-thin idea as beauty (Shea, 2009). According to the star online news, one in ten Malaysian young girls is prone to eating disorder. (Devadas, 2008) By looking at the thin images portrayed by the media, people are shaped to think that being thin is being beautiful and will attempt all means to become thin with dieting and other attempts that will lead to eating disorder.

The Independent online news in the United Kingdom, it states that they estimated 60000 people in Britain are suffering from eating disorder. Where the majority is women and about one in ten males are affected by this disorder. They also stated that about one to two per cent of women who is between age 15 to 30 are affected by anorexia nervosa. And 15 to 20 per cent of these people will die within 20 years (Norton, 2000). This in an alarming statistic as we see media has greatly impact people into wanting to become ultra-thin which lead to complications like anorexia nervosa and probably other problems lead by their dieting habits.

Furthermore, in a news article published by The Star Online, one out of ten young urban female college students in Malaysia are prone to eating disorder. The article mentioned that in Singapore a study of 4400 female students done by National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2005 found that seven per cent of these students were discovered to be at greater risk of eating disorder like anorexia and bulimia. It was also stated that there is an increase, by six times, in the incidence of eating disorder in Singapore since last ten years (Ng, 2007). This statistic has shown that eating disorder caused by media influence is not only in the western continent of the world but is also affecting the people around us. Hence this research is to help people to be more aware of the impact of media towards their body image perception.

Research objective

This study is to address the following objectives:

To examine whether media influence play a crucial role in affecting the perception of one’s body image.

To investigate whether media affects different gender differently.

Research questions

1. Is there any significant relationship between media influence and body image?

2. Is there any significant difference between gender and media influence?


There is significant relationship between media influence and body image.

There is a significant difference between gender and media influence.

Operation definition of variables

Several definitions are used for this research:

Media: Defined by oxford dictionary as the main means of mass communication (television, radio, and newspapers) (Oxford University Press, 2012). Media can also be differentiated into two forms, which is the “old” media, consisting of film, magazines, newspaper, radio, television and the “new” media consisting of internet, digital television, digital radio MP3 players, video on demand and WAP-based technology. The new media has the capability to communicate with potentially large numbers of people in a diverse range of social setting. (Devereux, 2003)

Body image: How you feel your body is aesthetically and how attractive you perceive yourself (Nordqvist, 2012). Body image can also be explained as the picture you form in your mind about the appearance of your body. It also includes what you believe others may think about your body. (Moe, 1999)

Significant of study

The influence of media towards body image is getting more and more serious as it creates health issue. Having a healthy perspective on body is important as dissatisfaction with body image contribute to depressive mood and lower self-esteem (Paxton, Neumark-Sztainer, Hannan, & Eisenberg, 2006). The effects of a dissatisfied body image caused by the media’s ultra-thin idea have led not only to psychological problems like low self-esteem but also causing eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia (Cheng, 2006). This study is important because we should understand how the media has alter and distort our believe system. Through this study one can also be aware of how they percept their own body image.

This study is also significant to healthcare personnel, as it will help them gain a better understanding on how serious the media can lead to unhealthy eating behaviours which will lead to health problems like eating disorder and also weight problems. (Abideen, Latif, Khan, & Farooq, 2011). This is crucial as healthcare personnel can have better insight towards the issue and will not neglect the issue. Early detection of signs and symptoms of eating disorder could also help the patient gain faster recovery and lower down the chances of death in case of anorexia nervosa.

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Furthermore, another significance of this research is that it can be useful for pharmacist in helping to give more information when selling weight management product so that users can use the correct product in a correct way, which can help in lowering risk cause by misuse of weight management product. This can be seen from a research done by Luevorasirikul (2007), media’s promotion of slimness for women and muscularity for men has led to the report of dissatisfaction with their body image and in attempts to change their body image with weight control product. It suggests that pharmacists can help in promoting a healthier lifestyle and weight management. The study states that the quality of most weight lost product (80%) advertisements are poor due to insufficient useful information and misleading claims. The finding of the research states that there was a relationship between a high level of body image concern and self-perception of being overweight and the attempt to lose weight (Luevorasirikul, 2007).

Theoretical framework

Social learning theory: Media influence on body image can be related to the social learning theory by Albert Bandura which indicates social learning happens through imitation or in other words observations (Jarvis, 2000). The media which is constantly bombarding the public with ultra-thin images created a channel for the public to observe and learn from these images as their reference and also example. This in other words created an environment for social learning. The public learn from the media that being thin is the way to have a good life, successful career, and also being attractive.

Social comparison theory: Social comparison theories states that, comparison is done based on different context and situation. (Comstock & Scharrer, 2005). Media influence especially on ultra-thin images causes and individual to carry out upward comparison which leads to consequences of low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.

Chapter II

Literature Review

Media influence on body image

Media is everywhere in our current society, it is a part of our daily lives and plays a significant role in affecting many our decisions and perception and one of the prominent influence media has on is body image. Berg et al. (2007) has conducted a study to investigate the role of media on body comparison as a mediator of the relationship between sociocultural factors and psychological factors that leads to body dissatisfaction between males and females (Berg et al., 2007). The study conducted by Berg et al. (2007) show that females are more affected by media body comparison, and they portray significant relationship in having lower level self-esteem, depressive mood, friend dieting, exposure to magazines message and BMI along with body dissatisfaction (Berg et al., 2007). This is consistent with a study done by Ata, Ludden, & Lally (2007), which states that females desire to decrease their body size and negative body esteem are related with problems such as low self-esteem and having lower social support (Ata, Ludden, & Lally, 2007). This study conducted by Ata, Ludden, and Lally (2007), also found that that females reported higher peer support, teasing from family about weight, pressure from friends to lose weight and pressure from the media in the eating and body image measurement. In other words, media is one of the sociocultural factors that affected how they eat and their body image (Ata, Ludden, & Lally, 2007). Females were also at a higher risk eating behaviour (Ata, Ludden, & Lally, 2007).

Furthermore, a study conducted by Cohen(2006), studies how social comparison plays in media’s influence on the need of becoming thin, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, it was found that the ultra-thin images displayed by the media will lead to upward comparison, the upward comparison will result in one feeling depressed, and angry and incline in self-worth(Cohen, 2006). This is supported by a previous study done by Tiggemann and Macgil (2004) which study whether exposure to magazine images of either whole body or body parts lead to social comparison (Tiggemann & Macgil, 2004). The result of the study found that both magazine images of thin ideal either full body or body parts plays and significant influence with social comparison with leads to other negative effects (Tiggemann & Macgil, 2004). Furthermore, a study conducted by Want, Vickers, and Amos (2009) also supports the study above through their study on how “Friends” an American comedy can cause significant social comparison and appearance (Want, Vickers, & Amos, 2009).

Besides, Mask and Blanchard (2011) conducted a research to examine the protective role of autonomous regulation of eating behaviours on the relationship between body dissatisfaction and women’s body image concerns and eating-related intentions in response to the “thin ideal” media (Mask & Blanchard, 2011). In this study Mask and Blanchard (2011), used a total number of 138 undergraduate females and randomly assigned them to view either a “thin ideal” video or a neutral video (Mask & Blanchard, 2011). The result of the research showed that females with lower of autonomous regulation of eating behaviours portrayed more negative affect and size dissatisfaction after the viewing of thin ideal video (Mask & Blanchard, 2011). This study is supported by another similar study conducted Mulgrew , Kostas, and Rendell (2013) whereby they focus on after math of music video clips on adolescent boys instead of females (Mulgrew , Kostas, & Rendell, 2013). Mulgrew , Kostas, and Rendell (2013) found that music video clips are powerful tools that convey information about ideal male body image and will cause them to have lower happiness level, dissatisfaction with body and appearance and higher chances of having depressive mood (Mulgrew , Kostas, & Rendell, 2013). Besides, it was also discovered by Mask and Blanchard (2011) that females who have a higher of autonomous regulation of eating behaviours displayed higher intentions to control their intake of food and cut down unhealthy food intake (Mask & Blanchard, 2011).

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Moreover, in an research conducted by Dalley, Buunk and Umit (2009), individual differences in body mass index and neuroticism used to investigate whether these two variables affects the vulnerability of exposure to overweight media images than thin media images (Dalley, Buunk, & Umit, 2009). Before the random exposure to thin or overweight conditions, female volunteers had to give their height and weight data and completed a 12 item neuroticism questionnaire (Dalley, Buunk, & Umit, 2009). Subsequently, the researchers found that thin media images did contributed to a higher body image dissatisfaction and there was also an interaction in volunteers who are both higher in BMI and neuroticism with overweight body image (Dalley, Buunk, & Umit, 2009). Therefore, it was showed that body image dissatisfaction is not solely restricted to thin media message (Dalley, Buunk, & Umit, 2009).

In conjunction, Dohnt and Tiggemann (2006), studied media and peer influence in both body image concerns and dieting awareness of girls who ages are from five to eight years old. A sample size of 128 girls from their first four years of formal schooling was recruited. The girls were interviewed individually through a brief scenario to evaluate aspect of body image and dieting awareness. The researchers found that most girls desired a thinner figure by the age of 6 and both media and peer influence became significant predictors of their dieting awareness and perception of body image. The research also indicated their perception towards their peers’s body dissatisfaction predicted their own level of body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness. It was also found that looking at magazines will indicated higher dissatisfaction with their appearance (Dohnt & Tiggemann, 2006).

Furthermore, Schooler (2008) conducted a study to investigate the usage of media and acculturation in shaping of the body image of Latino adolescence girls(Schooler, 2008). The research collected data from 81 Latina girls who’s age are from 11 years old and 17 years old (Schooler, 2008). In the study conducted by Schooler (2008), an amount of 81 participants reported their body satisfaction, acculturation, and their usage of mainstream media which is Black-oriented and Spanish- language television. 52 of these adolescences continued to participate in a longitudinal follow-up 2 years late r(Schooler, 2008). The results indicated frequent viewing of mainstream television correlates with decrease in body image (Schooler, 2008). However, another study done by Williams et al. (2006) states the otherwise, they found that girls of different culture like the Fijian may not see being thin as an ideal or benchmark as beauty despite to the exposure of European media of the thin idealization (Williams et al., 2006). It was found that in country like Fiji Island, sociocultural factors have a greater influence on the perception of beauty (Williams et al., 2006). Furthermore

In contrary, Slater and Tiggemann (2006) conducted a research to study the effects of both present and past physical activity and media influence on women’s body image were studied. In the study, Slate and Tiggemann(2006), used a total of 144 females participant in and they were asked completed measures of current physical activities media use and body image(Slater & Tiggemann, 2006). However, we are only going to focus on the result of media influence on body images in the context of present and past. Slate and Tiggemann(2006) discovered that the hours spent on the media has no correlation with body image during childhood. Despite that, there was a positive relation between reading magazines and having the drive for thinness and is even more dominant in a adolescence (Slater & Tiggemann, 2006). It was concluded, that media use plays a significant influence in females’ body image in both childhood and adulthood (Slater & Tiggemann, 2006).

In addition, there was research done by Humphreys and Paxton(2004) aimed to examined the mean effect on the state body dissatisfaction and mood of exposure to idealised males images in adolescents boys and to identify individual attributes that predicted change in state body dissatisfaction, depression and anxiety following image exposure (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004). A self-reported questionnaire on body image attitudes and psychological status was completed by 160 boys who have an average age of 15.6 years old (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004). Humphreys and Paxton (2004) divided into the participants into two groups with one viewing idealised male images and the other viewing non-figure advertising images (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004). Visual analogue scale, along with a depression and anxiety visual analogue scale were completed immediately prior to and following images exposure (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004) The result of the experiment showed no significant changes on “wanted toned body”, “wanted change body shape”, “depression” and “anxiety” visual analogue scale. In brief, it was found that adolescent boys were not significantly affected by exposure to idealised male images and reaction is mostly dependent on individual attributes (Humphreys & Paxton, 2004). This is consistent with another study by Jung (2006), which focus on the influence of prior exposure and after exposure to media images on mood and body image (Jung, 2006). Subsequently, Jung (2006) found that women with a higher concern of appearance are more prone to having lower mood and greater body dissatisfaction after exposure to media images (Jung, 2006).

Another research in conducted by Bell and Dittman(2011), examines media consumption in sense of type and genres and also investigated identification with media models, then uses an exposure experiment to investigate whether the different media formats in which ‘body perfect’ ideals are presented affects their impact on body image (Bell & Dittman, 2011). As a result, Bell and Dittman(2011) found that that both type and amount did showed relationship with body dissatisfaction (Bell & Dittman, 2011). Subsequently, a study conducted Ferguson, Munoz, Garza and Galindo (2013) also found that the amount of time spent watching television and used on social media did not show significant contribution to body dissatisfaction (Ferguson, Munoz, Garza, & Galindo, 2013). Besides, Bell and Dittman(2011) also found that regardless of media type, presentation of body perfect images subsequently leads to higher level of dissatisfaction in appearance and body (Bell & Dittman, 2011).

Lastly, a research done by Harper and Tiggemann (2007), tested the effects of media images on self-objectification mood (Harper & Tiggemann, 2007). A number of 90 Australian undergraduate women aged 18 to 35 were randomly allocated to view magazine advertisements featuring a thin woman, advertisements featuring a thin woman with at least one attractive man, or advertisements in which no people were featured (Harper & Tiggemann, 2007). The result of the experiment shows that women who were allocated to view featuring a thin-idealized woman displayed greater state self-objectification, weight-related appearance anxiety, negative mood, and body dissatisfaction (Harper & Tiggemann, 2007). In contrary, women who were assign to view product control advertisements displayed lower weight-related appearance anxiety problem, lower state of self-objectification, body dissatisfaction and negative mood (Harper & Tiggemann, 2007). This research has similar findings to another research which was done by Aubrey (2006), found that media exposure as an self-objectivity influence has a significant impact on women’s self-perception (Aubrey, 2006). In addition, it was also found that women who are more prone to vulnerability in a sense of initially having pressure to be thin or lacking of positive social support are more susceptible to body dissatisfaction (Aubrey, 2006).

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Gender differences

As the saying goes “Men are Mars, women are from Venus”. Gender plays a significant role in differentiating many issues this includes the perception of body image. A research conducted by Moriaty and Harrison (2008) investigated the link of media exposure and eating disorder in children (Moriarty & Harrison, 2008). The survey involves a total of 315 white and black preadolescent boys and girls with controlled aged, perceived body size, selective exposure to ideal-body television, and baseline disordered eating have shown that television exposure has significantly predicted disordered in girls one year later but fail to predict disordered eating in boys after one year (Moriarty & Harrison, 2008).

Furthermore, another research done by Khan, Khalid, Khan and Jabeen (2011) has investigated the effects of media has on the body image of university students in a conservative, developing country like Pakistan(Khan, Khalid, Khan, & Jabeen, 2011). The researchers use a cross-sectional study in seven private universities over a period of two weeks and administered convenience sampling to select males and females students ranging from 18-25 years old and a total of 784 sample size was collected (Khan, Khalid, Khan, & Jabeen, 2011).The results of the research have shown that media does have negative effect on an individual’s body image (Khan, Khalid, Khan, & Jabeen, 2011). In addition, it was found that males have higher negative body image dissatisfaction, and females have higher positive body image dissatisfaction (Khan, Khalid, Khan, & Jabeen, 2011).

Other than that, a research conducted by Hargreaves and Tiggemann (2004) investigated the effects of exposure to images of idealized beauty in the media on adolescent boys’ and girls’ body image. A total of 595 adolescent were asked to view commercial with images of thin ideal for women, images with muscular ideal for men or non-appearance commercial (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004). Their degree of body dissatisfaction was measured before and after the commercial viewing. The results of the research shows that there is an increased in body dissatisfaction for girl; and idealized commercial viewing also results in an increased of negative mood and appearance although it is more prominent in girls (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004). Moreover, participants who put more investment on appearance have greater comparison after viewing idealized commercial (Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2004). Another research conducted by Chen and Jackson also studied whether adolescent of different gender have discrepancy in body dissatisfaction (Chen & Jackson, 2012). The research conducted by Chen and Jackson carried out the research among early adolescents and middle adolescents in China and found that girls are more prone to appearance comparisons with peers and were found to have a higher body and appearance dissatisfaction due to the pressure by the mass media (Chen & Jackson, 2012).

Chapter III


Research Method

Survey research method is chosen to carry out this study. Survey research is designed to assess people’s opinions, attitudes and feelings. Besides, the results of survey are often used to describe people’s opinions, attitudes and preference (Larson, 2006). The result of the survey research is also used to predict people’s behaviour. Furthermore, by using the survey research the scope and purpose of surveys can be limited and narrow down to be specific, they can also globalize if necessary. The primary instrument of survey research is the administration of questionnaire. After collecting the data from the questionnaires, descriptive statistic, Pearson correlation test and t-test will be used for measurement.

Descriptive statistics are used to describe the basic features of the data in a study. Furthermore, descriptive statistics provide a summary of the sample and measures (Trochim, 2006). Descriptive statistics also include, providing simple summary by using graphic as a form of analysis to summarize observational data when quantitative data analysis is used(Shaughnessy, Zechmeister & Zechmeister, 2006). Descriptive statistics help to describe the details of our data and tell us what is going on with our data. They are used to present qualitative description in a manageable form and helps to simplify the large amounts of data in a practical way. Trochim (2006) noted that each descriptive statistic reduces lots of data into a simpler summary. Descriptive statistics provide a powerful summary that may enable comparisons across people or other units (Trochim, 2006).

A t-test is used to determine whether there is a significant difference between two sets of scores. Trochim (2006) suggested that the t-test assesses whether the means of two groups are statistically different from each other. This analysis is appropriate whenever you want to compare the means of two groups, which in my case is between gender media influence (Trochim, 2006). Statistical Program for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20 is used to run descriptive statistic and t-test analysis.

The Pearson correlation test is to summarise the relationship between two variables. (Gravetter & Wallnau, 2005) There are a few different correlation coefficient can be calculated and the two most commonly used are the Pearson’s correlation coefficient and Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. However, only the Pearson’s correlation coefficient will be used in this study. The Pearson’s correlation coefficient is especially suitable to be used in this test as the study is done using an interval scale. In this study, each variable is ranked from one to five, where one is definitely disagree and five is definitely agree.


The sample of this study is chosen from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kampar Campus. According to the Department of Admissions and Credit Evaluation of UTAR, there are approximately 12,700 students in the UTAR Kampar campus, from seven faculties including the Centre for Foundation Studies. However, this research is only focused on the undergraduate students.

In order to conduct this study, a total of 100 copies questionnaires were given to students from Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Institute of Chinese, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Business and Finance, and Faculty of Information Communication Technology. Different faculty is not used a variable in the study, therefore the questionnaires is distributed to students from different faculty. The reasons these faculty are chosen is to ensure a variety of people that have different areas of study that is language, science, arts, business and also information communication technology. Convenience sampling method was administered for this study.


Demographic Questionnaire. The demographic questionnaire is used to collect demographic information need for this research which includes gender, age, year of study, faculty of study, weight and also height. Although, not all the demographic information was used in the study, the extra information is collected for a better understanding on the sample. This section was included in the first page of the questionnaire, below the informed consent. Participants are required to complete this part of the questionnaire before moving on the next part of the questionnaire which is the Multidimensional Mental Influence Scale and the Appearance Schema Inventory.

Multidimensional Media Influence Scale. The Multidimensional Media Influence Scale is a questionnaire that is designed to assess perceived media influence on body image (Harrison, 2009). It is used to explore the relationship between subscales of awareness, internalization, pressure and also variables related to body image. (Harrison, 2009). The questionnaire contains of 14 questions based on a 5 point Likert scale with range from (Strongly Disagree (1); Slightly Disagree(2); Neither Agree or Disagree(3); Slightly Agree(4) and Strongly Disagree(5)). The cobach alpha score of this scale is .86 for overall, .84 for females and .83 for males (Wickman, 2000).

Appearance Schema Inventory. Appearance Schema Inventory is a 14-item scale designed to assess core beliefs or assumptions about the importance, meaning and effects of appearance in one’s life. The internal consistency score for this is .86. (Wickman, 2000).

Research Procedure

Before starting the research, a research proposal was submitted to revised and approved by my supervisor, Ms Annie Margaret. The questionnaire was distributed on 20th February 2013 to the sample mentioned above. The questionnaire was distributed 12 students from the Faculty of Information Communication Teachnology; 15 students from the Faculty of Science, 37 students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, 17 students from Institute of Chinese Studies and 19 students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Science. All the respondents were collected by the 26th of February 2013. The responses were then calculated and assessed to answer the questions in Chapter IV Findings and Analysis. Lastly, the results were interpreted in Chapter V, which consist of Discussion and Conclusion.

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Data Analysis

The media influence on body images were measures in descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, frequency and percentage). The Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Program was administered to carry out calculations for different types of tests in order to obtain statistical results between two independent variables (gender and body image) and one dependent variable (media influence). These tests include t-test and Pearson Correlation test.

Chapter IV

Findings and Analysis

Descriptive Statistic

The demographic information was collected from a total of 100 participants across five faculties. The information collected is faculty, age and gender. The table below summaries the distribution of participants according

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