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The effect of viewing idealised smile images versus nature images via social media on immediate facial satisfaction in young adults: A randomised controlled trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ariane Sampson, Huw G Jeremiah, Manoharan Andiappan, J Tim Newton

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Orthodontics
Issue number1
Early online date7 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

King's Authors


INTRODUCTION: The objective of this randomised controlled trial (RCT) is to investigate the effect of a social networking site (SNS) on body dissatisfaction, facial and smile dissatisfaction, and face-related discrepancy, and whether these effects differ from the use of appearance-neutral Instagram images. We also aimed to investigate whether there are trends in increased self-reported use of social media and increased body dissatisfaction, facial and smile dissatisfaction, and face-related discrepancy. METHODS: Undergraduate students were randomly allocated to an experimental group with idealised smile images or to a control group with neutral nature images. They completed pre-exposure questionnaires, then perused for 5 min their allocated images on individual Apple iPads via the Instagram application. Participants then completed the post-exposure surveys. The main outcome was facial dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction and total facial and body dissatisfaction were secondary outcomes. Simple randomisation was achieved with a computerised random number generator. Data were analysed using repeated measures ANOVA and multivariate regression analyses. RESULTS: A total of 132 participants (mean age = 20.50 ± 2.21 years) were randomised to either the experimental group with idealised smile images (n=71) or the control group with neutral nature images (n=61). Baseline characteristics were similar between groups and no participants were lost. Exposure to 'ideal' facial images on social media decreases facial satisfaction (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.85-1.05; P < 0.0001). Individuals with high baseline self-discrepancy scores are less satisfied with their facial features and body appearance (95% CI = 0.04-1.16; P = 0.036). CONCLUSION: This study shows that viewing SNSs with high visual media reduces satisfaction with facial appearance in the short term in men and women. This effect is greater in those with high self-discrepancy scores. Increased media usage was not correlated with increased dissatisfaction. Wearing braces or having had braces was shown not to influence post-exposure dissatisfaction.

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