Complimentary Weightism: The Potential Costs of Appearance-Related Commentary for Women's Self-Objectification

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Little is known about the effects of receiving compliments about appearance. An ethnically diverse sample of 220 college women completed self-report measures of appearance commentary, trait self-objectification, body surveillance, and body dissatisfaction. Results indicated that the impact of appearance criticisms and compliments, but not their frequency, predicted higher body surveillance and more body dissatisfaction. Moderated mediation analyses indicated that increased body surveillance partially explained the relationship between feelings about appearance comments and body dissatisfaction and that this effect was moderated by level of trait self-objectification. Higher self-objectifying women reported higher levels of body surveillance and more body dissatisfaction regardless of whether they felt positively or negatively about the appearance comments, whereas lower self-objectifying women were less stable in their reports. Importantly, all women reported higher body surveillance and more body dissatisfaction in association with feeling good about receiving appearance compliments, which supports the idea of complimentary weightism, whereby appearance compliments represent a seemingly innocuous type of interpersonal feedback that may have detrimental consequences for women's self-objectification and body image.

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, v. 33, issue 1, p. 120-132