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The Cognitive Effects of Cosmetic Surgery Reality Shows - From a Priming Perspective

Lee, Shu-Yueh
Committee Members: 
Dr. Catherine Luther
August 2009

Abstract: This study applied priming theory to investigate the cognitive effects of cosmetic surgery reality shows. An experimental design was utilized to demonstrate the effects of cosmetic surgery reality shows on viewers‟ perceptions regarding cosmetic surgery, physically unattractive people, and the beliefs of beauty. One experimental group was exposed to cosmetic surgery reality shows and two control groups were exposed to non-cosmetic surgery reality shows. This study found strong and assimilative priming effects. After being primed with cosmetic surgery reality shows, viewers perceived greater benefits of cosmetic surgery in terms of competitiveness, confidence, appearance, happiness, and attractiveness. They also perceived lower surgical risks and perceived good-looking people as more privileged in romantic relationships and in the job market. Meanwhile, physically unattractive people were considered as being disadvantaged in social relations. Habitual makeover show viewing had no effects on the perceived benefits and risks of cosmetic surgery. It had more profound effects on perceptions of physically unattractive people and the power of beauty. Body anxiety, unexpectedly, did not moderate the effects of exposure to cosmetic surgery reality shows.