The effect of basic psychological needs and exposure to idealised Facebook images on university students’ body satisfaction



Exposure to ideal body types in the media has been consistently linked to reduced body satisfaction. Images posted on social networking sites may also impact body satisfaction by portraying idealised standards of physical attractiveness promoted by peers. This study draws on self-determination theory to examine whether satisfaction of basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) protects against the negative effect of viewing Facebook images depicting an ideal body type on body satisfaction. Female (n = 141) and male (n = 48) university students were randomly assigned to view either a body-ideal image or a travel image presented on a mock Facebook profile. Viewing body-ideal imagery resulted in significantly lower body satisfaction compared to viewing travel imagery (d = -0.37). Satisfaction of the needs for autonomy and competence predicted higher baseline body satisfaction; however, none of the psychological needs protected against the negative effect of viewing body-ideal imagery on body satisfaction. Limitations included brief exposure to a single Facebook image and use of a convenience sample. Future research may benefit from measuring body image-specific rather than general psychological need satisfaction to predict state changes in body satisfaction.

Body satisfaction, Facebook, social networking sites, psychological needs, self-determination theory

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