Draft 2: The Miami Image and Self Perception

This topic submitted by Kendra Baird, Bethany Leeman, Katie Meredith, and Laurie Stone (leemanbc@miamioh.edu) at 7:32 pm on 10/18/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins


In the book, Exacting Beauty: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment of Body Imgage Disturbance, the collective authors derive the self-ideal discrepancy theory. This theory "focuses on an individual's tendency to compare his or her perceived appearance with an imagined ideal or ideal other" (Thompson 134).

Online, our group found a cry out for help from a girl that attended Miami University. This cry was posted on a web site designed to assist those in need of help with anorexia. The girl claimed that Miami was so concerned with physical appearance, particularly the body, that she was scared to go back to school. She feared that her anorexia would get worse from the societal pressures to "fit the image." In J. Kevin Thompson's book Body Image Disturbance: Assessment and Treatment, the theory of self image is described as "the essential feature of the physical appearance definition of body image is an evaluation of one's size, weight, or any other aspect of the body that determines physical appearance" (Thompson 1).

Many prospective students for Miami University are bombarded by the stereotypes of the school. "J. Crew U" is a popular description. There also seems to be a trend of non-Miami students that have the preconception that MU students are conceited and "stuck up." Rumors fly around about how Miami is ranked in the "Top Ten" by Playboy magazine for the most beautiful girls on campus. Thompson also notes that "early literature on anorexia nervosa showed an over-representation of these disorders among patients from upper socio-economic classes" (Thompson 3). It is known that Miami is like a public ivy league school. An abundance of the student population comes from families that are at the least well-off. In a video on eating disorders at Miami that we obtained from the Student Counseling Center, Miami alumni described Miami girls as "wealthy" and "homogenous" (Campbell-Ruggaard). The women are known for their physical appearance. "At Miami, that gets exacerbated" (Campbell-Ruggard). This video from the early 1990's Miami student population reports that 5-15% of students hold the characteristics of having an eating disorder, while another 5-15% are actually ideal eaters. The rest of our students fall somewhere inbetween.

All of this leads us to the question: is there a "Miami image?" Do Miami students believe that they are above average in looks in personality? And is there a difference between Main Campus and Western Campus self-perceptions?

The purpose of this lab is to discover if Miami students believe that there is a "Miami image," and to what extent they feel they fit that image. We would also like to find out how Miami students rank their personal beauty on a scale created by each individual from pre-selected pictures. After this is done, we would like to see how the Western campus rankings differ in comparison to the Main Campus rankings. Lastly, we would like to see how comfortable Miami students are with themselves as a whole. This will include asking about security issues and personality as opposed to physical beauty. We have chosen not to propose a specific hypothesis for fear that the study will become biased by our own prejudgements. Instead, we will simply state that we believe that the surveys will yield a significant difference between Western vs. Main Campus and men vs. women.

To accomplish this lab, we must create a valid testing system (a survey) to obtain credible and reliable results. From these results, we hope to draw theories about Western vs. Main Campus mentality and also about the general "Miami image." We would also like to connect these underlying themes with the levels of eating disorders and depression on campus. It is our hope that the publishing of these results will assist Miami students in their understanding of the differing opinions and perceptions on campus. The results may also help to understand why Western or Main Campus students have differing self-perceptions; or conversely, if there is no difference between the two campuses at all.

Relevance of the Research Question

In 1999, the student generated lab title "What is Beauty?" was submitted by Melissa Raftery, Joey Gomberg, Jenny Kuehnle, and Ali Mwanundu. This lab dealt with perceptions of beauty at Miami. This is a somewhat similar study to ours, except that "What is Beauty?" focused solely on physical appearance. We hope to create a more valid and accurate study by correcting the problems that exist in their research, but also by following our own research design.

In the on-campus, mental health newsletter Choices, we recently discovered an article titled "Is There a Miami Image?" The 1999 College Student Survey (CSS) was developed and administered by the Student Affairs Assessment Committee. This statistical inquiry of the graduating seniors of 1999 "points to the powerful perceptions that students have about the "Miami image," yet how relatively few believe they fit the image" (Choices 1). The article marks, "97% of the graduating class agreed strongly or somwehat that there does exist a 'Miami image,' yet only approximately 57% believe that they fit that image. And a mere 15.4% felt that they fit the image to a considerable extent" (2).

This lab can also be linked to the number of social problems that Miami students suffer. We have already contacted the campus Counseling Center and will continue to obtain information from them about anorexia, suicide, and depression. In particular, we will examine how those issues correlate with the pressure to "fit into the Miami image."

Materials and Methods:

To gather the data that we will need in our lab, we will be collecting the information in a survey format. We will be randomly sampling Miami Universityís campus. To get a random sampling, we will be giving the surveys at different times on different parts of Miamiís campus. The surveys will be printed out and given to the students by us. We will be sampling a minimum of 200 Main Campus students (100 females and 100 males), and a compared ratio of Western students depending on the total population of Main Campus verses Western. We will make sure that we ask if the student has taken the survey already in order to try to eliminate duplicates.

When given the survey, the students will be asked to fill them out themselves. We will be providing them with the beauty scale comparison photographs (we will be using the same photos for all the surveys, males having one set of male images and females having another set of females). They will complete the survey anonymously.
On some days we will be taking the department video camera with us and will be ask the students if they would mind being interviewed for our project. They will have the understanding that it will be shown later and could be on the Internet.

We will also attempt to contact the student counseling services on campus and send e-mail requests for interviews to such magazines as Teen, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Muscle and Fitness, and whichever magazines will return interviews.

For class involvement we will be having them give the surveys to a predetermined number of Western students. That number will depend on the ratio that we will establish based on the populations of Western verses Main Campus students. We will give them the surveys and the image photographs and tell them exactly how to give the surveys and answer any questions that they have. They will have some of the class time to get the surveys filled out. They will also need to make sure that the person has not filled out the survey before.

Below is a copy of the survey that we will be distributing. The pictures for Question #4 will be available online as soon as possible.

1. Sex: _____ Male _____ Female

2. What is your major? __________________________________________

3. What year are you? __________________________________________

4. Please rank the following pictures in order of least attractive (1) to most attractive (9). Choose where you believe you fall in your set scale. Then write the corresponding letters from the pictures below, making sure to include yourself.

1. ___ 6. ___
2. ___ 7. ___
3. ___ 8. ___
4. ___ 9. ___
5. ___ 10. ___

5. On a scale from 1-10, please tell us where you believe your own personality falls (1 being the lowest, and 10 being the highest).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. Think about your definition of "image" and rank that definition on the following scale:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

pure looks(1) pure personality (10)

7. On a scale from 1-10, please tell us how secure you are with yourself as a whole (1 being the least secure, and 10 being completely secure).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. Describe the "Miami Image" in 3 words.

__________________ __________________ __________________

9. To what extent do you believe that you fit this image?

considerable extent somewhat neutral not at all

10. Any optional additional comments you have concerning the above questions.

The timeline we have established for this project is as follows:

September 29: Turn in Lab Proposal

October 12: Finalize Lab Proposal and prepare Lab Packet

October 19: Lab Packet Due (posting and hard copy)

October 24: In Class Participation

October 31: Half Data collected

November 7: All Data collected

November 14: Data and statistics concluded

December 3: Finish up last minute details and have conclusions drawn

December 7: Turn in Final Student Generated Lab Report


Results will be posted once obtained. Our statistical data will include, means, medians, modes, standard deviations, and t-tests. We will compare Western to Main campus and males to females. We will also further break down the data to compare the Western males to the Western females, and the Main campus males to the Main campus females. And then, Main campus males will be compared to Western males, and Main campus females to Western females.


Conclusion will be posted once obtained.


Thompson, J. Kevin. Body Image Disturbance: Assessment and Treatment. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990.

---, and Heinberg, Leslie J., et al. Exacting Beauty. American Psychology Association, Washington D.C.: 1999.

Williamson, Donald A. Assessment of Eating Disorders. Pergamon Press, Inc., New York: 1990.

Managing Beauty Products and People (Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume: 03, Issue: 3, September 04, 1994, pp. 27-38 ). Lynn, Langmeyer; Matthew, Shank.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (European Journal of Cancer, Volume: 31A, November, 1995, pS295). Batchelor, D.M.; Middelkoop, M.

Eating disorders as coping strategies: a critique (European Eating Disorders Review, Volume: 6, Issue: 4, December 1998, p229-237). Troop, Nicholas A.

Do Positive Self-Perceptions Have a "Dark Side"? Examination of the Link between Perceptual Bias and Aggression (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, Volume: 28, Issue: 4, August 1, 2000, p327-337) David, Corinne F.; Kistner, Janet A.

Body Dissatisfaction as a Mediator of the Relationship between Dietary Restraint and Bulimic Eating Patterns (Appetite, Volume: 29, Issue: 1, August, 1997, p43 -54) RICCIARDELLI, LINA A.; TATE, DORIS ; WILLIAMS, ROBERT J.

Is there a Miami Image?. Choices-A Mental Health Newsletter. Student Counseling Service, Warfield Hall: January 2000, Volume 10: 1-2.

Eating Disorders at Miami University. Prod. Julie Campbell-Ruggaard, Miami Univesity. 1992.

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