Virtual reality (VR) offers a unique method for eliciting state-variable fluctuations in body satisfaction and associated behaviors by allowing near-perfect control over environmental factors. Greater variability in momentary body satisfaction is associated with more problematic eating behavior and cognitive styles predictive of eating disorders. The field currently lacks a model for understanding environmental variables and everyday events that tend to influence fluctuations in state body satisfaction. This study proposes a model of state-level body satisfaction and presents a method for measuring changes as they occur. We aim to investigate body comparison, selective attention and body checking behaviors in relation to self-report levels of state body satisfaction. We additionally assess interpersonal correlates of state body satisfaction using VR to measure personal distance between subjects and avatars of varying body sizes. 80 female college students with varying levels of weight and shape concerns will be exposed to five virtual environments designed to elicit varying levels of body dissatisfaction: (a) an empty room; (b) an empty beach; (c) a beach populated with avatars; (d) an empty party scene; (e) a party scene populated with avatars. Self-report body satisfaction was measured immediately following each exposure. A tracking system automatically tracked subjects' head orientation and body translation to measure visual gaze and personal space behavior relative to each virtual human within the environment. Data collection is currently underway and expected to be completed by May 2013. Preliminary data and development of the VR model for state-variable assessment will be presented.
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