The researchers focused on the potential psychological impact of women buying into this perceived ideal of thinness, which they call thin-ideal internalization. Changes in self-perception and behavior, caused by this idealization, can lead to body dissatisfaction, a preoccupation with weight and other symptoms of eating disorders.
“We’re all bombarded daily with messages extoling the virtues of being thin, yet intriguingly only some women develop what we term thin-ideal internalization,” said Jessica Suisman, lead author on the study and a researcher in MSU’s Department of Psychology. “This suggests that genetic factors may make some women more susceptible to this pressure than others.”
To explore the role of genetic factors in whether women “buy in” to the pressure to be thin, the idealization of thinness was studied in sets of twins. More than 300 female twins from the MSU Twin Registry, ages 12-22, took part in the study. Suisman and colleagues measured how much participants wanted to look like people from movies, TV and magazines. Once the levels of thin idealization were assessed, identical twins who share 100 percent of their genes were compared with fraternal twins who share 50 percent.
I’m immediately suspicious of this. First, the tumblr post is ripped verbatim from a website that ripped it verbatim from a press release from Michigan State, the home institution of the lead author. That’s just lazy; at least other websites, like CNN, had the courtesy to rephrase the press release before regurgitating it unquestioningly. At the very least, we can do better journalistically on the curated #science tag.
Second, the results too me don’t seem particularly strong. In the press coverage I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like any news source has conducted outside research besides reading the press release itself. No outside scientist has been contacted or quoted. I’m not qualified enough to evaluate the strength of their model, but in the discussion, the author spends no time considering alternative hypotheses. If anyone is more familiar with literature on modeling and psych research and has read the paper, I’d be happy to hear your take.