We shouldn’t need science to convince us that representation of diverse body types in the media is a good thing, but science just made a pretty solid case for it anyway.

A new study published by Florida State University last week titled, “Is plus size equal? The positive impact of average and plus-sized media fashion models on women’s cognitive resource allocation, social comparisons, and body satisfaction,” found that women tend to experience deeper body satisfaction and retain memory of plus-size models more than when they see imagery of average size and thinner models. 

The study, co-authored by assistant professors Russell Clayton and Jessica Ridgway, monitored 49 college women who struggle with body satisfaction. After showing the women images of plus-size, average and thinner models, the positive reaction and takeaway was greater on visuals of average models, and even moreso on plus-size models. 

“Women reported the greatest body satisfaction and the least amount of social comparisons when viewing plus-size models, but body satisfaction decreased and social comparisons increased when viewing average sized followed by thin size models,” the study said. 

It also pointed out, unsurprisingly, that exposure to “unrealistic-sized media models” has a negative effect on the consumer’s “mental and physical health, including experiencing lower body satisfaction.”

When you consider not only the success that models like Ashley Graham and Precious Lee have seen in recent years, but also the increasing amount of brands opting to include a diverse range of body shapes and sizes in their campaigns and the overwhelmingly positive reaction those advertisements have garnered from consumers, the data here is not all that surprising. 

Still, in an industry fraught with a lack of diversity and at times, questionable motives from brands which might be attempting to capitalize on and take advantage of the “trendy” body positive movement, it’s encouraging to see that inclusivity is actually accomplishing a way more important goal: Giving women confidence, providing them with role models they can relate to and prompting a more positive relationship with their own bodies. 

“Research has overwhelmingly found that exposure to unrealistically sized media models results in women reporting less satisfaction with their overall appearance,” the study said.

Here’s hoping this development gives brands yet another reason to perpetuate a more realistic message to their consumers. 

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