Social Work Student Who Battled Eating Disorder To Present Research Findings On Labeling Unrealistic Media Images

May 2, 2008

Contact: Krista Barrett, Field Education Program manager, Baylor School of Social Work, (254) 710-6681

Catherine Sykes, a Baylor University graduate student in social work from Glen Allen, Va., received inspiration for her research project while sitting at breakfast one morning. Because she had at one time suffered from an eating disorder, and saw many of her friends still suffering, she wondered what she could do to address the situation. Her cereal box gave her the answer.

"Next to a picture of a morsel of the cereal were the words 'Not Actual Size,'" Sykes said. "Here they have regulations on acknowledging the actual size for a bit of cereal, but never mind about the entire human being that gets published in advertisements. Where is her 'not actual size' label?"

Sykes' research on photo labeling as it applies to truth-in-advertising regulations, completed in cooperation with the Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders (ANAD), will be presented to the community at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 7, at the Baylor Baylor School of Social Work's MSW Practice Colloquium. Sykes' presentation will be one of 66 research and/or practice reports given that day - each on a topic as current as the day's headlines regarding social issues, injustices or concerns.

Sykes conducted an online survey made available on the ANAD web site from Feb. 12 through March 26, 2008. Survey questions were designed to measure self-perception in terms of thoughts, feelings and behaviors after the viewing of fashion models representative of current cultural ideals in photographic advertising. More than 200 participants viewed photographs of fashion models of both genders, and then answered a series of 4-point Likert scale questions. The participants then viewed the same photographs with photo-labels and responded to the same set of questions.

Sykes' findings from this research study provide evidence that photo-labeling has a positive impact on self-perception for the population and in the context studied.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that examines a point-of-contact intervention in photographic advertising," Sykes said. "The findings are exciting because they show that it is possible to negate some of the psychological damage that can occur when individuals view unrealistic media images and then attempt to hold themselves to those same unrealistic standards."

Sykes will receive her master's in social work (MSW) degree this month from Baylor.

The School of Social Work's MSW Practice Colloquium is held annually each spring as a service to the community. Social work practitioners may earn up to 6 CEU hours. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. in the Cashion Academic Center on the Baylor campus. Presentations are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no cost for the colloquium; the CEU certificate costs $10.

For more information, contact Krista Barrett or call 254-710-6400.

Presentation Topic Areas:

    Ethics in Social Work

    Issues for Elderly

    Congregational Social Work

    Children and Adolescents

    Clinical Practice/Therapeutic Issues

    Women and Families

    Community Involvement

    Mental and Physical Health

    Collaboration of Churches/Faith-based Agencies

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