Viewing of a Simulated Promotional Website Involving Anorexia Negatively Affected Undergraduate Females

Bardone-Cone and Cass created a “prototypic” pro-ana website, and randomly assigned 235 female undergraduate college students to view either a simulated pro-anorexia site, a fashion website featuring normal-weight models, or a site on home decor.

After viewing the anorexia-promoting site, young women showed worse moods, worse social self-esteem, and felt worse about their appearance regardless of whether they were classified thin, over-weight or identified themselves as having an eating disorder.

The author reports participants exposed to the pro-anorexia website had greater negative affect, lower social self-esteem, and lower appearance self-efficacy post-website viewing than those who viewed a comparison non-pro-anorexia website. Viewers of the pro-anorexia website also 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.

Bardone-Cone AM, Cass KM.  What does viewing a pro-anorexia website do? an experimental examination of website exposure and moderating effects. Int J Eat Disord. 2007 Sep;40(6):537-48.

KEYWORDS: thin-ideal exposure, anorexia