The Affective Consequences of Minimizing Women's Body Image Concerns

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We propose that women regularly anticipate and receive messages from others that trivialize the severity of their body image concerns. Moreover, we suggest that these minimizing messages can heighten women's negative affective reactions to body image threats, particularly if they internalize them. Two studies provided support for these ideas. In Study 1, women and men estimated the likelihood that others would minimize the feelings of a woman who felt badly about her body. As expected, women estimated a high likelihood of minimization. In Study 2, women internalized or rejected a message that either minimized or validated the severity of body image concerns before undergoing a body image threat themselves. Women felt heightened negative affect following the threat if they internalized the minimizing message, but they maintained their prethreat affective state if they rejected the minimizing message or internalized the validating message. The discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for research on effective social support and clinical interventions.

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, v. 32, issue 3, p. 257-266