Draft 3: The "Miami Image" and Self-Perception

This topic submitted by Kendra Baird, Bethany Leeman, Katie Meredith, and Laurie Stone (leemanbc@miamioh.edu) at 3:44 pm on 11/21/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins


In this lab, "The 'Miami Image' and Self Perception," we are trying to determine whether there is a "Miami image," and to what extent Miami students feel that they fit this image. In addition, we are exploring the idea that Western Campus rankings will differ from Main Campus rankings, and that the rankings of men will differ from the rankings of women. We would like to examine how Miami students feel about themselves as a whole. In the concluding evaluations of our experiment, we will address the social ideas of eating disorders, depression, and expecially those issues linked with diversity on campus.

We have found that there are many stereotypes about Miami University and the students that attend here. In our survey and the interviews, we have found that some of the most prevalent words used to describe the image are "white," "J. Crew," "Abercrombie & Fitch," "skinny," "fake blonde," and "wealthy." We are publishing the results of this experiment with the hopes that it will help Miami students and prospective students understand the different opinions and perceptions of the campus in more depth. Also, our hope is that Miami students will learn to accept the differing self-perceptions between Western Campus and Main Campus; or, if there is no difference, they will become aware of the similarities between the two campuses.

With this project, we hope to present valid results to use in the analysis of social problems on campus as well.


In the book, Exacting Beauty: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment of Body Image 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 considered 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 and personality on a scale of 1 to 10. After this is done, we would like to see how the Western campus rankings differ in comparison to the Main Campus rankings. We will also compare males to females. 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 hope to further investigate the existence of a "Western Image." We would also like to connect these underlying themes with the levels of eating disorders and depression on campus as well as issues concerning diversity 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. This lab will also venture into the following questions:

Is Miami overly concerned with "image?"

Does Miami need to look more into this idea of "image" and how it affects its student population?

Is it just as unhealthy to have "high self-esteem" as "low self-esteem?"

Relevance of the Research Question

In 1999, the student generated lab titled "What is Beauty?" was submitted by Melissa Raftery, Joey Gomberg, Jenny Kuehnle, and Ali Mwanundu. This lab dealt with perceptions of beauty at Miami. However, they compared Miami's beauty to a societal beauty developed by themselves. 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). A copy of this article will be available in PDF format as soon as possible. Please look for a second draft (coming soon). We will be presenting this article in class.

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."

We have also recently discovered the "I am Miami" Campaign for the promotion of ethnic diversity and equality on campus. We intend to contact this group and learn more about their intent and actions on the Miami campus. Our group hopes to learn why they feel that Miami is lacking in diversity, and why it is important to have diversity on campus.

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 University's campus. To get a random sampling, we will be giving the surveys at different times on different parts of Miami's campus. We plan to station ourselves outside dorms, dining halls, the rec, uptown, and of course, Western campus. The surveys will be printed out and given to the students by us and the students of the NS class. We will be sampling a minimum of 300 Main Campus students (150 females and 150 males), and 100 Western students (50 males, 50 females). 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 in anonymity. We hope that their answers will not be skewed by the fear that we will be judging them for their rankings, so we will ask the person to take the survey without worrying about us connecting their answers to their identity. We have decided to allow the students to rank their own beauty on a scale of 1 to 10 rather than having them rank themselves on their own created scale made of pre-selected pictures. We reasoned that each person would then have their own arbitrary scale. And we would not be able to take statistically sound data from this. Using pictures led us to the problem of selecting 9 random pictures to be easily used in the ranking. This selection in itself was too difficult and biased to allow into our project. We will be establishing a meeting with Kip Alishio, head of the Student Counseling Services and head of the "Is There a Miami Image?" project, to obtain advice on our testing procedures.

On some days we will be taking the department video camera with us and will be asking 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 (SCS) on campus. We have just recently contacted Kip Alishio. He has already performed a study similar to ours, recently published in the mental-health newsletter Choices. He has agreed to work with our group and discuss procedures and brainstorming ideas. We also hope to be in contact with counselors on campus to discuss how this relates to social disorders.

We are planning on creating a webpage for students to take the survey online. These results will not be included in the statstical evaluation of the project, but will affect our final evaluations. This webpage is where we will include the video footage and include further thoughts and investigations about our project. A link to this page will be available online once the page is up and running.

For class involvement, each student will be given 10 surveys to distribute and collect, 5 females, and 5 males. We will give them the surveys and tell them exactly how to give the surveys and answer any questions that they have. They will be divided into four groups, and one of the four lab creators will go with each group. We will seperate onto various parts of the campus to distribute and collect surveys. The students will be expected to tally up the data on the provided data sheet:

****make it easy on yourself: Download PDFs of:


    The time line 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 be comparing Western Campus to Main Campus and males to 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.

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

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

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

    David, CorinneF. and Kistner, Janet 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)

    Ricciardelli, Lina A. and Tate, Doris and Williams, Robert J. Body Dissatisfaction as a Mediator of the Relationship between Dietary Restraint and Bulimic Eating Patterns (Appetite, Volume: 29, Issue: 1, August, 1997, p43 -54)

    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 University. 1992.

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