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The authors used a discrete choice conjoint design to examine the relative contributions of previously identified contextual factors (clothing, looks, company, and comments) for eliciting instances of appearance-related self-consciousness in a sample of 250 female undergraduates. The findings revealed that individuals differed in their relative weighting of each of the four contextual factors. Latent class analysis identified two distinct response profiles: one group reported appearance-related commentary as most likely to trigger an instance of appearance self-consciousness, whereas a second group prioritized self-perceived level of attractiveness as most likely to prompt self-consciousness. On average, the looks-prioritizing group that had higher body mass index were more dissatisfied with their appearance, and felt greater social pressure to conform to appearance-related standards. The use of a discrete choice conjoint design also allowed the authors to investigate the interplay between situational- and trait-based variables in the elicitation of appearance self-consciousness. Their findings suggest that the negative effects of appearance comments and/or perceived unattractiveness on appearance self-consciousness may be offset by access to a friendship network. Furthermore, the finding that individuals differed in their responses to various contextual influences on appearance-related consciousness suggests that a one-size-fits-all model of the relationship between environment and appearance self-consciousness may underestimate the complexity of this relationship. The authors discuss the treatment implications of these findings, as well as the need for further research to ensure that other, relevant contextual factors have not been neglected.


Institute for Health and Ageing

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Journal Article

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