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Reliable Observation of the Distorted Perception of the Actual Body Size

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An article provides advanced data on the biometric body-shape software, which helps to adapt individual body parts, and enable the observers to estimate their body size accurately (Tovée et al., 2003). The features of the Distorting Video Technique (DVT) are presented as a solution to the disturbance in the perception of the personal body size that is considered as a key element in the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, whose therapeutic treatment has not brought successful results.

The developed software system allows an observer to create a series of templates for each body part, and manipulate her body shape image, in order to understand how fat is added or lost from the body.  The image is delineated and transformed according to the previously taken template that helps the observer to change the specific area of the body, and determine how these changes transform the shape of the body and impact apparent BMI of the whole body. Moreover, the software allows the calculation of the accurate measure of BMI, using perimeter-area ratio (PAR) equation. This equation has a linear relationship with BMI, and is estimated by the division of the path length around the perimeter of a figure. Since the abovementioned distortion of the body image perception is common for female gender and has two components of inaccurate ability to measure the actual body, and initial dissatisfaction of the observer with her body shape, the research included samples of 30 female observers with anorexia, 30 female observers with bulimia and 137 female observers, who do not have eating-disorders (Tovée et al., 2003). For that purpose, the latter filled the questionnaires, which regarded the issues of depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and beliefs as well as examination of their eating-disorder data.

The initial estimation of the actual body size showed that controls tended to exaggerate the size of their chest relative to the width of their waist, and generally overestimated their actual body size by 1,9% (Tovée et al., 2003). The bulimic observers overestimated their actual body size by 6,3 %, without making significant difference in WHR and WCR values (Tovée et al., 2003). The anorexic observers overestimated their body size by 4,5% , and made significant difference between the actual and estimated WCR values (Tovée et al., 2003).

The ideal body size estimation results showed that the control reduced the size of their specific body parts by 5,11% with significant reduction of the size of the waist and thighs relative to the other body parts (Tovée et al., 2003). The bulimics reduced their body size by 8,07% with the significant reduction of the same body parts as of the controls (Tovée et al., 2003). The anorexics showed the same tendency of reducing the actual size of their waist and thighs, though they did not reduce, but rather increased their body size by 1,7% (Tovée et al., 2003).

Comparison of the actual BMI and ideal BMIPAR values showed that there was no significant difference between the ideal estimations of the bulimics and controls, but the ideal estimations of the anorexics were lower than the results showed by the other two groups (Tovée et al., 2003). Moreover, all of the observer groups did not show a significant difference between estimations of WHR and WCR values of the actual and ideal body shapes. Furthermore, the results of all three observer groups testified that they tended to change the shape of the estimated body modifications with increasing curvaceousness of their ideal body shape. 

Furthermore, the results of the research, based on the comparison between the actual and modified body image data, showed that all of the observer groups tended to reduce their body size, and manipulate in particular their waist and thighs. The control observers showed more accurate perception and judging of their actual waist width and BMI, while the anorexic and bulimic observers showed significant difference in overestimation of the actual and ideal BMI, which was 3,5 units lower than the actual body size ((Tovée et al., 2003). However, the control observers were least accurate in estimating their chest size with correlation of 0,5 difference.

In addition, the results of the study brake the commonly accepted pattern of the WCR value attractiveness, since none of the ideal bodies modifications approach the set WCR ratio of 0,7 (Tovée et al., 2003). Additionally, the article brings significant contribution to the psychological study of the maintenance of anorexia and bulimia disorders, based on the evaluation of the distorted body shape perceptions.

The Observers’ Attention to the Body Size during their Distorted Body Shape Perception

Critical Standpoint

The article puts forward a hypothesis that women tend to overestimate the size of particular body parts relative to the rest of their body, due to the tendency of fat deposition in the specific parts of the body. Therefore, it is fair to state, that commonly preferred body mass index (BMI) that measures correct proportion between the scale of weight and height does not depend on the waist-hip ratio and waist-chest ratio, but refers to the changes of the particular body areas. The article justifies that relationship between the PAR equation and actual BMI index is useful in calculation of the BMI data of the modified images, whose new BMI is not known. For that purpose, it is true to support the argument that the controls’ definite perception can be a good visual cue in measuring the actual BMI, since the observers with the higher BMI had tendency to set a modified image with a higher BMIPAR (Tovée et al., 2003). For example, the bulimics and control observers set the images with the commonly preferred BMI ratios, while anorexics maintain the index that had lower correspondence than 20 (Tovée et al., 2003).

Furthermore, the study suggests that the combination of the weight scaled for height remains at around a value of 20, which corresponds to the normal measurement of BMI, and has been rated as an optimal BMI range for female attractiveness (Tovée et al., 2003). Such results prove that this balance corresponds to the optimal BMI, which closely correlates to the authentic notions of health and fertility. Therefore, the article’s prejudice of the dependency of the higher fertility on the specific shape of the body is fair, since poor nutrition and low BMI affect metabolism processes stagnates further sufficient development of ovulation, which provokes progression of the secondary symptoms of anorexia (Tovée et al., 2003). Therefore, it can be justified that the WHR ratio cannot be taken into account regarding fertility issues.

Moreover, the article supports the hypothesis of the evolutionary psychology, based on the human beings’ consistency to the stereotypes of the curvaceous shapes of the supermodels. Such statement appeared to be true even for the two eating-disorder observer groups, who showed specific preference to the female bodies with significantly lower BMI, and overestimated its ratios by 1,5 units and 1,2 units (Tovée et al., 2003). Considering the fact, that the higher BMI observers manipulated the image with the higher BMI, it can be concluded that the observers paid more attention to the body size rather than shape. Moreover, the observers did not change their body shape to a considerable degree, but increased the curvature of their existing body to the certain visual attractiveness. In addition, the argument that describes the observers’ possibility to alter the images of the ideal bodies rather than choosing among the set of the presented images seems reasonable in the light of the set experiment.

“Perception and Movement” Experiment, based on the Body-Shape Comparison

Considering the fact that the observers did not change their body shapes, but still had perception disturbance, the set experiment may focus on the women’s comparison and evaluation of their body shapes with the body shapes of the template images, whose actual BMI equals to the ones that the observers have. For that purpose, the observer will have to compare the line of the images with other experimental, and forecast her body shape’s placement in the line of these women. The body-shape software will calculate her actual BMI and compare it with the selected images of the same BMI index, and place the observer’s image in the right position in the line. The experiment will help the observer critically evaluate her actual body shape, and improve her perception, taking into account that the selected images will have the same type of the body shape as the woman has. Movement in the context of this experiment represents the improved observer’s perception, when her actual BMI and body shape will be compared and assessed by the woman’s critical view.

Moreover, such test will be helpful to treat cognitive-evaluation dysfunction, which will be ameliorated by the set comparison between the actual body and homothetic images. In addition, the experiment will be helpful for the additional therapeutic treatment of the anorexic and bulimic observers, because the selected images will reflect the normal state of the body shape that the observer might have with the set BMI index.

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