Transporting to TV -land: The impact of idealized character *identification on self and body image
In line with research in psychology and communication, it was hypothesized that individuals most likely to watch television and movies for escape and self-enhancement might be individuals who hold negative or anxious views of self. Results of a questionnaire study suggest that indeed, for young women in particular, lower self-esteem and increased body concerns are associated with increased transportation into media programs and increased connections with favorite characters. Results from a lab study indicate that identifying with an idealized character may influence implicit views of self and body image. Instructions to identify rather than contrast the self with an idealized character facilitated the association of self with positive words in a reaction time task. However, this effect was most pronounced for individuals low in body anxiety. Individuals high in body anxiety appear less willing to contrast the self with an idealized icon. This finding is explained in terms of chronic identification tendencies of anxious individuals, which may inhibit realistic appraisal processes. Ultimately, findings shed light on the reinforcing mechanisms that may keep vulnerable individuals enamored of potentially destructive and unrealistic media role models.