London, Dec 20 (PTI) Watching TV makes people find leaner females more attractive, according to a study which advices producers to show people of all shapes so that women and girls are not pressured to aspire for a 'thin ideal body'.
The researchers, including those from Durham University in the UK, worked with about 300 men and women from seven villages in a remote area of the Central American country Nicaragua, who either had regular or hardly any television access.
They said the participants completed a questionnaire about their ethnicity, education, income, hunger, language and TV exposure, and also rated the attractiveness of pictures of females of varying body shapes and sizes.
According to their study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people with very limited access to TV found females with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) more attractive than thinner ones.
However, the researchers said, people who often watched TV found slimmer females more attractive.
Since the people in these villages were very similar in terms of their ecological constraints, such as nutrition, income and education, but had differing access to TV, the researchers said they were able to isolate the effect of TV exposure from the other factors.
According to the researchers, the representation of a 'thin ideal' in the media can lead to body dissatisfaction among females, and can play a part in the development of eating disorders and depression.
'TV and advertising bosses have a moral responsibility to use actors, presenters and models of all shapes and sizes and avoid stigmatising larger bodies. There needs to be a shift towards a 'health at every size' attitude and the media has an important role to play in that,' said Lynda Boothroyd, lead author of the study from Durham University.
People in these villages generally did not have access to magazines or the Internet, and none of the participants in the study owned a smartphone, the researchers said.
They added that only people with electricity supplies to their homes as well as the money to pay for a TV along with a cable subscription were able to watch TV on a regular basis.
Those who had access to TV watched a mixture of Latin soap operas, Hollywood action movies, music videos, police 'car chase' reality shows and the news, the study said.
'This study, utilizing a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods with non-Western participants, provides yet more empirical evidence that the mass media impact female body size ideals,' said study co-author Jean-Luc Jucker.
Perceptions of attractiveness, the researchers said, are highly changeable, and are affected by what people are visually exposed to.
'If there's something that's universal about attraction, it is how flexible it is,' Boothroyd added. PTI VIS VIS VIS