What Does Viewing a Pro-Anorexia Website Do? An Experimental Examination of Website Exposure and Moderating Effects

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Objective:This study experimentally examined the effects of viewing a proanorexia website.Method:Following construction of a prototypic pro-anorexia website, 235 female undergraduates were randomly assigned to view either the pro-anorexia website or one of two comparison websites related to female fashion (using average- sized models) or home décor. Postwebsite affect, cognitions, and behavioral expectations were examined along with moderator effects.Results:Study participants exposed to the pro-anorexia website had greater negative affect, lower social self-esteem, and lower appearance self-efficacy postwebsite than those who viewed a comparison website. Additionally, they perceived themselves as heavier, reported a greater likelihood of exercising and thinking about their weight in the near future, and engaged in more image comparison. Minimal support was found for moderator effects.Conclusion:Results provide an empirical basis for concern (expressed by clinicians, researchers, the media) that proanorexia websites are a troubling new form of thin-ideal exposure that warrants further examination. © 2007 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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