Why do we envy other people? The answer seems simple: because they have something we want or wish we had. But psychologists are trying to learn MORE about this obsession.
In the October 11th edition of the New York Times, John Tierney quote researcher Sarah E. Hill as saying, "(Jealousy is) much like a car crash we can't stop looking at. We can't get our minds off people who have advantages we want for ourselves."
Why do women (and men!) like to leaf through fashion magazines that contain photos of impossibly thin (or buff) models, whose appearance highlights readers' own flaws, instead of looking at magazines that contains pictures of more ordinary-looking people? Several women's magazines have tried putting "real" people in their fashion spreads, but they quickly folded, while magazines like Vogue (where some of the models are twelve-year-olds dressed up to look sophisticated) go on and on. Is this a form of self hate?
It turns out that teenage girls have a strong influence on the products their mothers buy solely for personal use, as in makeup or clothing, and that mothers have a much stronger tendency to mimic their daughters’ consumption behavior than vice versa. This could be one of the reasons that the fashion models wearing high-fashion clothes on their youthful bodies can be as young as twelve years old.
Researcher Ayalla A. Ruvio says, "It is not merely the mimicking act that is conscious. The findings clearly indicate that the subjects intentionally choose the figure they want to emulate and report their inclination to mimic their consumption behavior." A new study reveals that the most powerful influence on women's appreciation of their bodies is how they believe important OTHERS view them. Previous studies have found that people who are unhappy with their physical appearance feel even more dissatisfied when they are shown photos of models who have "ideal" bodies.
Researcher Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick asks the question we all want to know: "Why do we still buy those magazines and watch those television programs when they should just make us more dissatisfied?" She found that they DON'T--people who dislike the way they look avoid photos of ideal bodies--unless the photos are surrounded by articles suggesting that they, too, can look like those models. Knobloch-Westerwick says, "People will view these photos if they feel like they can achieve this ideal. In that case, these models with the ideal bodies can serve as source of inspiration to improve one's own body shape." But the more a woman appreciates her REAL (not idealized) body, the more her diet will succeed, because she is more likely to eat intuitively, responding to physical feelings of hunger and fullness rather than emotions or the mere presence of food.
And the TRUTH about those photos is that the thin and muscular people in them may diet and work out, but they were basically born with the type of body that is popular with fashion designers and the media, and there's no way the average person can achieve this. Tierney quotes Hill as saying, "I wasn't terribly surprised that women were just as envious as men about wealth. After all, from an evolutionary perspective--or any other perspective, for that matter--men wouldn't be so concerned with resource acquisition if women didn't like resources so much."
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