Lies and body weight

As a change agent, I’m intensely interested in the neuro-mechanical mechanisms of learning, particularly as it relates to getting people to change their behaviors and practices. As such, one of the things I read is a blog called BPS Research Digest. They post synopsis of various cognitive research twice monthly. Today’s issue has an article entitled How lies breed lies. Somehow, I couldn’t help but compare the analogies to those that can be typical between clients and consultants. This is why I tell you that you have to be honest when describing your situation to suppliers and service suppliers (de facto consultants). Still, there’s two options here. One, the supplier or service provider may be less than ethical and feed you what you want to hear -to their financial advantage- feeding you reciprocal b.s. I see that all the time. However, it’s more likely an ethical provider will just drop you. The truth gets out eventually and you need all the friends you can get.

Another of my interests is body sizing in all forms (social, political, technical, psychological, industrial). In that vein, BPS published Body image -it’s ‘healthy’ people who are deluded. Apparently, people who are eating-disordered have a more realistic view regarding the attractiveness of their bodies as compared to “healthy” people. Unfortunately, “healthy” wasn’t defined in terms of BMI. I also found it to be true (anecdotal of course) that people who aren’t eating disordered to be less than accurate in the estimation of their own attractiveness as related to body weight. Everybody likes to point the finger and say that it’s women who overestimate their attractiveness related to body size but I’ve found men are just as likely to describe themselves as “athletic” when they’re carting around an extra 30 to 50 lbs.

If you’re interested in cognitive science, you’ll find lots of interesting research and off-site links at BPS Research Digest.

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5 comments

  1. Alison Cummins says:

    I’ve been thinking about this article since you posted it. I would have to know more, but as presented I have problems with this work.

    First, I’m not sure “deluded” is an accurate description of self-perception. Most of us have superimposed memories. For instance, when I see my father I see not only the 64-year-old international education expert aging a little too quickly in front of me, I also see the 27-year old hippie writer who thought I was the world’s smartest four-year-old. People who have been married a long time see their spouses not only as the wrinkly saggy impatient person next to them, but also the young and vibrant college student they fell in love with. I don’t call this delusion: I call it shared history. Similarly, I know perfectly well who I am today, but my memories of who I was – and crucially, what my body was like – twenty-five years ago still form part of my self-image.

    In the case of this study, another interpretation of the data might be that eating-disordered women started out with an unrealistically negative self-image in the first place, which was part of what triggered their eating disorder. The difference in self-perception today could be related to the fact that less-attractive healthy women retain memories of when they were younger and more attractive, but eating-disordered women don’t have any memories of feeling attractive.

    Second, I am not sure that the study techniques accurately measured attractiveness. Headless nekkid photos? Compared to the women we usually see in nekkid photos, study subjects are highly unlikely to come up favourably. Were they photograped by a boudoir photographer trained in flattery? Or were they subjected to horrible lighting?

    I know, deluded or not, that a headless shot of me in a dowdy beige bra and big white cotton underpants is highly unlikely to attract attention anywhere other than to my poochy belly and stretch-marked thighs. I will certainly rate as unattractive under these circumstances. But guess what – I know who I am, and I *am* attractive. I have an engaging personality, a warm smile and a penetrating gaze. I have great legs, and in a skirt that ends somewhere between my knees and those chafing pouches of fat at the tops of my thighs I am totally sexy. Tits are not everyone’s thing – most of the men I know prefer them small and high and tidy – but they are a look and I can use mine to balance out some of my other bulges.

    And naked with a lover, when I can’t use any illusions or distracting tricks, I know that anyone who isn’t totally bowled over with amazement at their luck is just a colossal jerk who can’t appreciate what they have.

    So if an experimenter took a nekkid picture of me and then handed it back to me and asked me to rate it for attractiveness, there is no way they could bring me to rate myself as unattractive – certainly not as unattractive as a jury of strangers would rate me. Because I know myself, and I am a treat.

    (Short form of above: women evaluating themselves use more information to come to a judgement than the jury of strangers does, so it’s not surprising they come to different conclusions.)

  2. Anna says:

    Instead of BMI-try body fat percentage much more accurate. Two women same weight and height can weigh the same thing; but one can wear a size 6 in the same pair of pants while another will wear a 12. If you look fat; then you are fat if you look thin; then you are thin.

  3. Talbot’s sizing study

    Joanna sends word of a newly released sizing study commissioned by Talbots. Somehow, 85% of women know if something fits them by looking at the size tag but 62% of them don’t know their body measurements! Moreover, only 16% of…

  4. Reader says:

    I’m not surprised by the conclusion in the article because I was already aware that depressed people tend to have a more objective view of reality. To have an eating disorder, is another form of faulty reasoning. At the same time, I’ve known many “normal” people who, if not deluded, are seriously mistaken about their size. The desirable thing would be to find some middle point in which one focused on one’s good points without denying reality.

    Alison Cummins wrote:

    ” The difference in self-perception today could be related to the fact that less-attractive healthy women retain memories of when they were younger and more attractive, but eating-disordered women don’t have any memories of feeling attractive.”

    I thought that most women with eating disorders were fairly young, so I don’t know when this earlier phase of feeling attractive would have occurred.

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