Body Image: A Cognitive Self-Schema Construct?

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body image, self-schema

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Body image has been a useful construct for understanding eating disorders. In that capacity, body image has been defined in many ways: One concept of body image is as an internalized view of one's appearance that drives behavior and influences information processing. This cognitive schema definition of body image was tested in a series of studies. Other recent studies have investigated cognitive processes with body image information, but they have focused on weight-related body image. A combination of Higgins' self-discrepancy theory and Markus' self-schema theory were used to describe a modern interpretation of body image as an internalized self-representation. Both of these theories predict specific information processing consequences of an organized cognitive representation. In turn, these consequences confirm the existence of that representation. Several studies were conducted to test a specific schema-like view of body image. In Study 1 body image schema variables were correlated with traditional measures of body image. In Study 2 subjects exposed to schema relevant contents showed information processing consequences consistent with self-representation theory. Finally, in Study 3 instructional set was shown to modify the schema activation effect. These effects give evidence of body image schema and yield limited information about the nature of that representation.

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Body Image: A Cognitive Self-Schema Construct? v, 20, issue 2, p. 171-193