Date of Thesis

5-8-2014

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Science

First Advisor

Chris J. Boyatzis

Abstract

Empirical work shows that religiosity promotes positive body image among women, but causal mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unexamined. The current study utilized an experimental design to test whether different god concepts influence women's body image, food choice, and eating behavior. College-aged women completed an online pretest measure of body image. Women were randomly assigned to view authoritarian images, benevolent images, or control images. All participants were then exposed to media images of the thin female ideal. Participants then completed measures of body image, a computer-simulated food decision task, and an alleged taste-test to measure food consumption. Viewing authoritarian god images would result in declines in body esteem from pretest to posttest, selection of a greater number of healthy foods, and consumption of fewer cookies. In contrast, viewing benevolent god images would buffer against declines in body image, but women would select a greater number of unhealthy foods and eat more grams of cookies. The hypotheses were largely unsupported. Body image scores unexpectedly increased from pretest to posttest across all three conditions. When controlling for body mass index, there was a significant effect of condition on change in body esteem weight, such that women who saw an angry, judgmental god reported the largest increases in body esteem. There was no main effect of condition on food choice. Furthermore, low restraint women in the Authoritarian and Benevolent conditions selected fewer healthier foods as expected, but within the Control condition, food choice did not differ by restraint level. These results suggest that religion and restraint may interact in complex ways to influence eating behavior. To this end, I discuss possible alternative hypotheses based on the data reported herein as well as qualitative data.

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