Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


The Benefits and Trajectory of Airbrushing-Based Media Literacy Among Girls

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Dara Musher-Eizenman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sherri Horner, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Marie Tisak, Ph.D. (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anne Gordon, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


This dissertation assessed the body image and digital manipulation (airbrushing) knowledge of four age groups (i.e., 3rd grade, 7th grade, 11th grade, and college students). It was found that girls begin to learn about the airbrushing process around 7th grade (12-13 years old), but they do not begin to use this knowledge to protect themselves against airbrushed images until they are older adolescents. Also examined was the effect that seeing airbrushed images had on girls in the different age groups and what individual personality differences played a role in how much children, adolescents, and women were affected by the thin-idealized images. Body image was assessed pre and post exposure to two sets of thin-idealized images. A short media literacy reflection task was completed during the second exposure. College student body image decreased after exposure to thin-idealized images with and without the media literacy reflection task. However, body image decreased significantly less when the media literacy reflection task was employed. This demonstrates the ability of this age group to use the airbrushing knowledge they have to protect themselves against idealized images, but only when instructed to do so. While the younger samples did not show a decrease in body image post media exposure, child body image was negatively related to BMI and internalization of the thin-ideal. These two main individual difference variables were found to contribute the most to both lower body image and worse body image change after media exposure.