The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

A quantitative assessment of body perception: Elliptic Fourier Descriptors


1Formerly, School of Dentistry, UCLA, 2Department of Kinesiology, Tokyo Metropolitan University, 3Department of Medicine, Kaiser Permanente

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The phrase “body image” or “body perception” refers to how individuals perceive their own body. Body perception studies are either largely descriptive in character or based on indirect measures such as height, weight, BMI, etc., Quantitative assessments of total body images have been rarely attempted because of the lack of available methods. This study compared whole body photographs of a non-clinical population (n=132) of Japanese women with a line drawing prepared from memory to assess their self-perception. A test-retest procedure, two-weeks apart (n=21), tested the reliability of the drawing procedure (r = 0.81±0.05, p<0.01) and was found reliable. Elliptical Fourier analysis (EFF) was used to describe the shape of the outline of both datasets: the frontal view photograph and its drawing. Utilizing 108 digitized points, a size-standardized EFF with 54 harmonics was generated. A set of 23 distances was then computed from the EFF. Superimposition of photograph and drawing for visual purposes was implemented using Procrustes to insure a minimum shape difference. Statistical comparisons (MANOVA), of the sample of photographs with their drawings displayed significant results (F-tests, p<0.001) for representative body measures such as hip width, thigh width, and left and right calf widths. These measures displayed smaller values for the drawing compared with the photograph and suggest that young Japanese females, as their western culture counterparts, unconsciously favor slimness as a desirable body image. With respect to studies of body shape and its perception, EFFs were found to be useful and could generate reference data for future studies.

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