Selfschemas and body image

The core of body image dissatisfaction is a discrepancy between a person's perceived body and their ideal body. A failure to match these leads to self-criticism, guilt and low self-worth. Self-schema is a mental representation of those elements that make an individual different from other people. Myers and Biocca (1992) view a person's body image as one aspect of the mental representation that constitutes the self. As with other aspects of the self, the body image is a mental construction, not an objective evaluation. The authors believe that a number of reference points exist that a person will draw upon when constructing their mental model of body image. These include the 'socially represented ideal body' (ideals represented in the media, and drawn from peers and family), the objective body and the 'internalised ideal body' (a compromise between the objective body and the socially represented ideal). They argue that the body image is elastic in that its reference points frequently change since it depends on mood and the presence of social cues.

Cash and Pruzinsky (1990) believe that specific contextual events serve to activate schema-driven processing of information about, and self-appraisals of, one's body appearance. Implicit or internal dialogues such as automatic thoughts, interpretations and conclusions are termed 'private body talk'. In the case of individuals with skin disease who have a negative body image, this private talk can reflect habitual and faulty patterns of reasoning and the commission of specific cognitive errors. Among the defensive actions which may arise from these cognition's are avoidant and concealment behaviours, compulsive correcting rituals and social reassurance seeking.

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