My Body Gallery recently launched a new website feature: the “Guess the Weight” quiz. In this game, users can test their capacity to determine body weight from a random selection of images that have been uploaded into the database. A player selects a weight, and then engages in 3 rounds of play. Each round features 5 images, only one of which is the target weight. At the end of the 3 rounds, players get their results and can view the images from all rounds.
In comments on the My Body Gallery social media, many of our community members marveled at how many they got wrong and how incredibly difficult it is to determine weight in the absence of much information beyond just a body depicted alone. Some images give certain clues for size comparison, but on the whole, the quiz challenges our visual perception because most of us suffer from some degree of body dysmorphia.
The quiz was inspired by a tidbit on an eating-disorder treatment center’s blog which noted that one “study found that women overestimate the size of their hips by 16% and their waists by 25%, yet the same women were able to correctly estimate the width of a box.” Our crack team of My Body Gallery researchers could not track down the original academic article with that particular bit of data, and we contacted the owners of the blog who unfortunately did not keep the reference (if ANY of you have come across this study, please email us the citation and/or link to firstname.lastname@example.org!!!). However, in the course of our research, we came across many other fascinating studies about the extent to which people (both women and men) fail at correctly assessing body size.
One particular study by J. Kevin Thompson, who summarized his results in “Larger Than Life,” Psychology Today (April 1986): 41-44, concluded that 95% of non-eating-disordered women overestimate their body size and that 2 in 5 misjudged one body part by over 50%! I’d just like to emphasize here the “non-eating-disordered” detail. Many previous studies had only looked at body dysmorphia in those with eating disorders. But as so many of us in the MyBodyGallery community know, the media’s body standards that are unrealistic for most people and corporate practices like vanity sizing really mess up almost everyone’s perception.
A few details from the Thompson article:
Women “overestimate their cheeks the most, followed by waist, thighs, and hips.”
Women “overestimated more than men, on the average (25 percent compared to 13 percent), on overall measurements. They also overestimated more than men did on their cheeks, waist and hips. Both sexes were equally inaccurate, about 22 percent, in overestimating the size of their thighs.”
“What seems clear…is that the more inaccurate women are about their body size, the worse they feel about themselves…Men’s self-esteem was unrelated to how accurately they perceived their bodies.”
Thompson and team “found an astounding variability in body-size distortion. some people overestimate all body sizes to a large degree, others are inaccurate in one specific place and a minority are completely accurate. Some individuals carry their inaccurate perceptions about themselves over to judgments about others.”
Sadly the article is not available online, but your local library should be able to retrieve a copy for you, if you want to read it in full.
One of the biggest questions we’ve been fielding about the “Guess the Weight” quiz is: “Why don’t you have the heights listed? It’s impossible to tell the weight without the height?” This, of course, is part of the design. The type of models preferred by mainstream media are not only atypically skinny, but they are far above average height, further skewing our perceptions of what bodies look like. If you are curious to find out the height of a person in any particular image that comes up when you play the quiz, just click on that thumbnail in the final results, and a new tab will open with that image and its stats.
If you’re interested in helping to spread the word about the “Guess the Weight” quiz, you can find the official press release here. Share the link or download the pdf version to attach to emails.
And don’t forget to play a few rounds! The results might surprise you.
Anna Friedman, Creative and Marketing Director
The My Body Gallery project needs real Women! We need your help to develop the project and build a collection of photos that will help more women see themselves more clearly. Upload a picture of your full body. Our photo submission process also allows you to block out part of the image to protect your identity, if you wish. Please note that you must be 18 to upload a photo.