- Visual adaptation to thin and fat bodies transfers across identity (2012)
- Visual perception is highly variable and can be influenced by the surrounding world. Previous research has revealed that body perception can be biased due to adaptation to thin or fat body shapes. The aim of the present study was to show that adaptation to certain body shapes and the resulting perceptual biases transfer across different identities of adaptation and test stimuli. We designed two similar adaptation experiments in which healthy female participants adapted to pictures of either thin or fat bodies and subsequently compared more or less distorted pictures of their own body to their actual body shape. In the first experiment (n = 16) the same identity was used as adaptation and test stimuli (i.e. pictures of the participant’s own body) while in the second experiment (n = 16) we used pictures of unfamiliar thin or fat bodies as adaptation stimuli. We found comparable adaptation effects in both experiments: After adaptation to a thin body, participants rated a thinner than actual body picture to be the most realistic and vice versa. We therefore assume that adaptation to certain body shapes transfers across different identities. These results raise the questions of whether some type of natural adaptation occurs in everyday life. Natural and predominant exposure to certain bodily features like body shape – especially the thin ideal in Western societies – could bias perception for these features. In this regard, further research might shed light on aspects of body dissatisfaction and the development of body image disturbances in terms of eating disorders.