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Are people able to accurately judge body shape and size from images of the face?

Are people able to accurately judge body shape and size from images of the face?


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I have noticed that when I look at a cropped picture of someone's face, I fill in the remaining image of his/her body in a manner that is consistent with the face (wider face, larger body, skinnier face, frail body, large jaw, more muscular body, etc). Does the human brain immediately and accurately fill in such information and guess what a persons's body looks like from just images of the face?


Yes, barring weird instances of swelling that is localised to the face, for example. Evolutionary psychologists argue that facial cues, including adiposity and skin pigmentation, to name but two, serves as a cue for general health. If this argument holds true, it means that humans developed a fine-tuned ability to make quick judgments about someone's fitness to mate based on various factors related to health, of which facial features happens to be a big one. This might also explain why we find highly symmetrical faces more attractive, as facial symmetry is positively correlated with genetic health markers.

Another example is the seemingly robust correlation between testosterone levels and the square jaw that you mentioned. In turn, testosterone and muscle mass are linked. Ao seeing someone with a square jaw, you automatically infer their testosterone levels as well.

Apart from that, there is an obvious correlation between facial adiposity and BMI, which heavily influences judgments about general health and mating preference.

Short answer: You have this ability because it's highly advantageous when it comes to making judgments about choosing good mates.


Criticisms

While the body positivity message is intended to help people feel better about themselves, it isn’t without its problems and critics.

For example, one problem is the idea that body positivity implies that people should do whatever they think they need to do in order to feel positive about how they look. Unfortunately, the popular messages that people are bombarded with include the idea that thinner, fitter people are happier, healthier, and more beautiful. This idealization of thinness can then contribute to people engaging in unhealthy actions—including excessive exercise or extreme diets—under the guise of feeling "body positive."

Another criticism of body positivity is that it can be non-inclusive. Depictions of body positivity messages tend to exclude people of color as well as those who are disabled, LGBTQ, and non-binary.

The body images often portrayed in body-positive messages often still conform to a specific beauty ideal many people simply don’t feel included in body positivity.

Actress Jameela Jamil, who stars on the tv series The Good Place, is often described as one of the faces of the body positivity movement, which she suggests is miscategorization. In an Instagram post, Jamil explained that body positivity is essential for people who are "not believed by doctors, who are abused in the street, and who can't find clothing in their size."

However, she also recognizes that the movement isn't right for everyone and that many people feel shut out of the body positivity conversation.

Instead, Jamil suggests that she advocates for body liberation or even body neutrality. This approach involves taking your body out of the center of your self-image. She has the privilege of taking such a stance, she notes, because she is not persecuted because of her size. Other people, those who the body positivity movement is specifically aimed at, simply do not have that luxury.

Another criticism of the body positivity trend is that it makes the appearance of the body one of the most important elements of a person’s self-perception. It neglects all of the other elements of a person’s identity that are more important than how a person looks. In this aspect, Jamil’s stance, suggesting that people should stop making the body the determinant of self-worth and self-perception, might be a healthier, more inclusive approach.


How to Determine Your Body Shape

This article was co-authored by Nejla Renee. Nejla Renee is a fashion stylist, image consultant, and personal shopper based in New York, New York. With over seven years of experience, Nejla specializes in helping people enhance their positive attributes and express their identities through style. Nejla holds a BS in Marketing and Finance from Northeastern University and worked in finance prior to starting her own business. Nejla combines her business experience with her personal creativity, passion, keen eye for detail, innate sense of style, and strong understanding of fit and proportion to help her clients create peace and acceptance around their style.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 92% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

This article has been viewed 932,182 times.

Knowing your body type can be helpful for choosing clothing that will accent your best features. It’s easy to determine your body type with nothing more than a tape measure. Start by taking measurements of your bust, waist, and hips. Then, use this information to determine which body type best describes your measurements. No matter what your body type, remember that bodies come in many shapes and sizes and all bodies are beautiful!


Agnosia

3.1 Definition

Visual agnosia is defined as a disorder of recognition confined to the visual realm, in which a patient cannot arrive at the meaning of some or all categories of previously known nonverbal visual stimuli, despite normal or near-normal visual perception and intact alertness, attention, intelligence, and language. Typically, patients have impairments both for stimuli that they learned prior to the onset of brain injury (known as ‘retrograde’ memory), and for stimuli that they would normally have learned after their brain damage (known as ‘anterograde’ memory).


Visual agnosia

Visual agnosia is an impairment in recognition of visually presented objects. It is not due to a deficit in vision (acuity, visual field, and scanning), language, memory, or intellect. [1] While cortical blindness results from lesions to primary visual cortex, visual agnosia is often due to damage to more anterior cortex such as the posterior occipital and/or temporal lobe(s) in the brain. [2] There are two types of visual agnosia: apperceptive agnosia and associative agnosia.

Recognition of visual objects occurs at two primary levels. At an apperceptive level, the features of the visual information from the retina are put together to form a perceptual representation of an object. At an associative level, the meaning of an object is attached to the perceptual representation and the object is identified. [2] If a person is unable to recognize objects because they cannot perceive correct forms of the objects, although their knowledge of the objects is intact (i.e. they do not have anomia), they have apperceptive agnosia. If a person correctly perceives the forms and has knowledge of the objects, but cannot identify the objects, they have associative agnosia. [3]


Manipulating body representation in the lab

Though the size and shape of our body changes substantially over the developmental timescale, on a day-to-day basis the form of our body remains largely constant. Moreover, we are intimately familiar with our own body, both due to its ubiquity in our perceptual experience, and because we use our body constantly to perform all of our daily activities. We might therefore suppose that our mental representations of our body would be highly rigid, and resistant to alteration. In striking contrast to this prediction, recent studies have found remarkable plasticity of body representations in response to simple sensory manipulations.

For example, Gandevia and Phegan (1999) investigated the perceptual effects of local anesthesia on perceived body size. They measured the perceived size of different body parts by asking participants to select from an array of body-part pictures the one most like their own body part. They found that cutaneous anesthesia of the thumb produced a large and rapid increase of the perceived size of the thumb. This phenomenon may be familiar to people who have undergone dental anesthesia, in which the mouth and teeth commonly feel swollen. Indeed, this effect was experimentally confirmed in a study in which participants selected from images of lips and teeth the set most like their own (Türker, Yeo, & Gandevia, 2005). Intriguingly, Gandevia and Phegan (1999) found that anesthesia of the thumb not only increased the perceived size of the thumb, but also increased the perceived size of the lips. While the thumb and lips are not adjacent on the actual body, they are adjacent in topographic maps of the body surface in somatosensory cortex (Penfield & Boldrey, 1937). Thus, this pattern of transfer suggests that changes in organization of somatosensory cortex may be driving these effects. Such results demonstrate that our experience of our body is not determined solely by stored representations, but is also shaped by the constant flow of sensory signals reaching the brain from the peripheral nerves.

In another study, Lackner (1988) used illusory arm movements elicited by applying vibration to muscle tendons to investigate the plasticity of body representations. Tendon vibration generates signals specifying muscle lengthening, although no actual muscular change occurs. Thus, vibration of the biceps tendon produces the illusion of forearm extension, while vibration of the triceps tendon produces the illusion of forearm flexion. Lackner investigated what would happen if such illusory arm movement was induced while the arm was in constant contact with another body part, such as the nose. For the forearm to move away from the face, while remaining in constant contact with the nose, the nose itself would have to be extending, like Pinocchio’s. Remarkably, many participants reported feeling like their nose was getting longer. More recent studies have shown, analogously, that with the hands placed on the hips, vibration of the biceps and triceps tendons can produce the illusion of one’s waistline become wider or slimmer, respectively (Ehrsson, Kito, Sadato, Passingham, & Naito, 2005).

The illusions produced by local anesthesia and tendon vibration alter the perceived size and shape of the body. But other recent studies have shown even more profound alterations of what things we perceive as being part of our body in the first place. For example, in the rubber hand illusion (Botvinick & Cohen, 1998), a prosthetic rubber hand is placed in front of the participant and two paintbrushes are used to touch the rubber hand and the participant’s occluded actual hand at homologous locations at exactly the same time. In many participants this creates the compelling feeling that the rubber hand really is their hand. In contrast, if the two hands are touched out of synchrony, no such experience occurs. Thus the feeling of ‘body ownership’ that we normally experience over our actual body is projected outwards to include the rubber hand on the basis of correlated visual and tactile inputs. Recent studies using virtual reality have shown similar body ownership over virtual avatars, even ones differing from participants in age, body shape and even sex (Slater, Spanlang, Sanchez-Vives, & Blanke, 2010).

Together, these results reveal that the representation of the body is remarkably malleable. Despite the seeming stability of our experience of our body, mental body representations are being continually shaped by immediate sensory experience and can be massively altered in response to changing sensory cues. Other recent results, however, have shown further that even in the absence of any intervening manipulation, the baseline representations that people have of their body are highly distorted. I will now describe these findings.


Discussion

There are three main findings. First, there was no first-order relationship between perceptions of conscientiousness, academic performance or intelligence and actual academic performance. Second, when controlling for the expected influences that age, sex and perceived attractiveness on perceptions of competence (perceived conscientiousness, academic performance and intelligence), then the relation between perceived competence and actual academic performance increased in strength. Third, perceived conscientiousness was the single best face perception predictor of actual academic performance (outperforming perceived intelligence and perceived academic performance), and again accuracy was significantly improved when controlling for the suppressor variable of attractiveness.

As we expected, the form of the relationship is one of classic suppression in which there is some factor (perceived attractiveness) that is correlated with perceptions of conscientiousness, but not correlated with actual academic performance [8–12]. When this factor is controlled, the relationship between perceived conscientiousness and actual academic performance is increased (see Fig 3). It should also be noted that, although some previous literature suggests weak correlations between attractiveness and cognitive performance measures [16], in our study perceived attractiveness was not a valid cue to actual academic performance. These results suggest that we are ‘blinded by beauty’ in a way in which we would be more accurate in our perceptions of academic performance from faces if we were not influenced by the ‘attractiveness halo’ effect.

This figure shows the noise in perceived conscientiousness (the overlap between perceived attractiveness and perceived conscientiousness) and how by suppressing this noise results in an improved predictor of actual academic performance (greater overlap between the remaining perceived conscientiousness and actual academic performance).

Given the amount of research on higher expectations and desired educational traits being ascribed to attractive students over unattractive students, it is not surprising that faces that were rated as more intelligent, having better academic performance and being more conscientious were also rated as more attractive (see composite faces in Fig 2). As predicted, there were high correlations between perceptions of attractiveness and perceptions of intelligence, conscientiousness, and academic performance, likely reflecting the strength of the attractiveness halo, as well as the similarities among these perceived competence measures [87]. While there is less evidence to suggest perceptions of intelligence and academic performance are unique constructs, the possibility that perceived conscientiousness and perceived attractiveness are not distinguishable empirically is dealt with in two ways: face validity of the items for which evaluators were clearly rating conscientiousness or attractiveness (the measures were unambiguous to the evaluators) and we calculated inter-evaluator reliabilities for conscientiousness and attractiveness ratings and even after correcting for attenuation due to measurement error, the correlations between these variables remained distinct (i.e. they were imperfectly correlated). Taken together, these elements suggest that these measures can be treated here as distinct constructs, and that they are measured with sufficient reliability to be distinguished empirically in this study. The high correlations do create potential for interpretative difficulties in multiple regression, and under such circumstances we find it important to emphasize the role of suppression in their relationship in a way that reflects the traditional understanding of the attractiveness halo.

Findings suggest that accuracy in perceptions of academic performance also increases with the clarity and validity of the question proposed. When controlling for attractiveness, age and sex, perceptions of conscientiousness in faces yielded above chance accuracy in predicting academic performance, but accuracy in predicting actual academic performance did not reach levels of statistical significance with perceptions of intelligence or perceptions of academic performance. Given the high correlations between these perceived competence measures, it is difficult to say for certain whether perceptions of conscientiousness are unique in their capacity to predict actual academic performance over and above perceptions of intelligence or academic performance. Rather, it seems perceptions of conscientiousness predicts actual academic performance because, in comparison, it may be the least ambiguous competence construct. As previously argued, it is likely that individual differences in theories and understandings of intelligence can lead, on average, to less accurate perceptions of intelligence in faces. Likewise, perceived academic performance is possibly confounded by a combination of the ambiguities in the term intelligence (fixed vs. malleable) and the limited consensus on how much intelligence (in relation to conscientiousness) is necessary for high academic performance hence the limited accuracy of perceived academic performance compared to perceived conscientiousness in predicting actual academic performance.

The improved accuracy in perceived conscientiousness predicting actual academic performance over perceived intelligence is also consistent with research that suggests that actual conscientiousness is a stronger predictor of academic performance than actual intelligence [70]. Further, the Intelligence Compensation Theory (ICT) suggests that conscientiousness acts as a coping strategy for relatively less intelligent people. While evidence for ICT is limited, some studies have found significant negative correlations between fluid intelligence and conscientiousness [72,73]. Other studies have found a significant negative correlation between crystalized intelligence and conscientiousness [88]. Thus, our findings of perceived conscientiousness better predicting actual academic performance in faces than perceived intelligence is consistent with literature suggesting actual conscientiousness is a better predictor than intelligence in predicting actual academic performance. Nonetheless, given the high correlations amongst the perceived competence variables explored (perceived intelligence, perceived academic performance and perceived conscientiousness), we must be cautious in claiming that only perceived conscientiousness is related to actual academic performance rather we argue that the specificity in rating tasks and the influence of attractiveness bias are worth considering when exploring validity of judgements based on faces.

The increased accuracy of academic performance in faces after controlling for attractiveness has important implications. Indeed, Olivola and Todorov [89] showed that judges overweigh aspects of appearance and would be more accurate in judging personality if face perception was ignored. However, facial impressions have consistently been shown to influence our opinions as well as bias decisions in politics [90], leadership [91], law [92], parental expectations and punishments on children [93], military rank promotion [94], and teacher evaluations [95]. Clearly, the power of first impressions is critical and has repeatedly been shown to influence our opinions about a person.

Furthermore, research has found that femininity is considered more attractive than masculinity [43] and that females perform better academically and stay in education longer than males [96], which likely leads to females being ascribed more desired educational traits over men. It is also well documented that older students do better on intelligence tests [97,98] and do better academically than younger students. Moreover, crystalized intelligence and perceptions of wisdom have shown to increase linearly with age [99,100], which would influence impressions of competence in older students (hence the intentionally limited university age range for facial stimuli presented). Our research suggests that when controlling for biases of attractiveness, age and sex, independently or collectively, accuracy of perceived academic performance is significantly improved.

Perhaps one of the most alarming consequences of using insufficient information to guide first impressions is the expectancy effect in education. The classic Pygmalion study conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson [101] suggests that expectations alone are capable of influencing the targets’ actual performance. Specifically, the Pygmalion study found that students who were arbitrarily assigned the label ‘bloomers’ (i.e., anticipated to show future promise) eventually scored higher on future tests than other students, even though the students labelled as ‘bloomers’ were a random sample and not any more intelligent than the other students in the class. More recent research on expectancy effects by Sorhagen [102] found that teachers’ inaccurate expectations of students in first-grade was associated with students’ academic performance in high-school and that students from lower income families were especially influenced by this bias. Likewise, De Boer, Bosker, and Van Der Werf [103] defined expectation bias as the difference between observed and predicted teacher expectation and found a significant relationship between teacher’s expectation bias of students’ performance and actual performance 5 years later. Hence, perceptions of conscientiousness, intelligence and academic performance may play a vital role in the classroom environment and in the success of a child’s education.

Future research in face perception can benefit from noting the significant differences in perception accuracy based on different theories of intelligence or competence. Perhaps more importantly, given the well documented effects of expectations of academic performance on actual academic performance, our findings help emphasize the biased effects of perceived attractiveness on expectations of academic performance. While it seems unlikely that another person’s attractiveness can be filtered out when attempting to accurately perceive academic performance, the mere knowledge of the negative influence attractiveness has on accuracy may encourage less biased practice for perhaps the best antidote to deter unconscious bias is to make conscious the possibility of bias.


Which facial features are most important for first impressions?

Scientists know it takes humans just milliseconds to look at someone's face and judge them good-looking or trustworthy.

Now, a new study finds that certain facial features seem to trigger specific first impressions about a person's character, too.

The shape and size of the mouth, for example, appear directly linked to whether someone seems approachable, while eye dimensions are keys to attractiveness.

The study findings suggest that first impressions are fairly simple, basic and predictable, said co-author Tom Hartley, a lecturer with the department of psychology at the University of York in England.

"Our work shows which features are associated with which first impressions, so we could use this to identify pictures that project the most desirable impressions, or even perhaps tweak images to produce a specific effect," he said.

The researchers validated their research by creating cartoon-like faces that were designed to draw certain kinds of first impressions.

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"We wanted to see whether we can estimate people's first impressions of the very varied images we encounter every day, like on the Internet," Hartley said. "The impressions we create through images of our faces such as avatars or selfies are becoming more and more important in a world where we increasingly get to know one another online rather than in the flesh."

Nicholas Rule, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada, agreed.

"People are making these decisions all the time now in the context of social media. People have lots and lots of photos of themselves, which are easy to come by," said Rule, who was not involved in the study. "With this flood of images comes a choice about how someone wants to represent himself or herself."

In the study, published July 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers measured 65 physical facial features, such as eye height and eyebrow width, and tried to develop a statistical model that could accurately predict first impressions.

"By combining them we could explain over half of the variation in human raters' social judgments. This was surprisingly straightforward, and our equations involve only weighting the different physical features and adding them together," Hartley said.

Among other things, a "masculine" face -- determined in part by eyebrow height, cheekbone structure, skin color and texture -- was linked to dominance. More feminine face shapes created perceptions of attractiveness and youth, the researchers found.

"Some of our most important judgments do depend on fairly obvious features: a smile looks friendly, and an angry expression makes you less approachable," Hartley said. "However, many of the features we identified as correlated with social impressions are far less obvious. For example, an unapproachable-looking person has a pale, drawn appearance."

The main problem, as it's always been, is that the cover doesn't always reflect the book.

"The danger is that these instant judgments are inaccurate, that we misjudge people based on their appearance," Hartley said. "Worse still, we're largely unaware of the extent to which our initial feelings toward other people are influenced by appearance, and this makes us prey to unconscious biases."

Evolutionary changes may have given humans the ability to make instant judgments so they could identify potential allies and enemies, not to mention mates, Hartley said.

Along those lines, Hartley suggested that people read the study before they post a photo with their resume or online dating profile.

First published on July 29, 2014 / 10:50 AM

© 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Does chiropractic work?

Despite acceptance by many insurance companies, a number of studies don't confirm its effectiveness.

  • With over 70,000 certified chiropractors in America, the modality has gained wide acceptance.
  • Yet many studies do not show chiropractic to be more effective than placebo or pharmaceuticals.
  • Some chiropractors treat newborns as young as two weeks to help alleviate "birth trauma."

The first chiropractic adjustment took place in 1896 in an Iowa office building. D.D. Palmer, a fan of magnetic healing and anti-vaxxer, ran into the building's janitor, who was suffering from back pain he was also deaf. It's not quite clear exactly how Palmer adjusted the janitor's vertebral subluxation—a term unique to chiropractic that implies an undetectable spinal misalignment—as, with all origin stories, details are murky. Supposedly, Palmer claims the adjustment cured him of deafness the second patient he treated apparently left with no more heart disease.

Palmer was a metaphysics fan and correlated physical symptoms with spiritual phenomena chiropractic is based on the idea that energy flows block the "innate," which manifests in things like back pain. Not only did he believe chiropractic had a religious and moral purpose, he also claimed he "received" it from a deceased physician. He called chiropractic a religion he even tried to use the freedom of religion clause to circumvent the fact that he wasn't a licensed medical professional, a move that got him jailed and fined. He ended up selling his school to his son, who apparently killed him in 1913.

While Palmer's emphasis on the nervous system was an early contribution to an important physiological discourse that doctors are still uncovering today, chiropractic is still considered pseudoscience. Regardless, this is America, where suspect folk remedies and metaphysical interventions are commonplace. Within three decades there would be over 80 chiropractic schools established in the United States. Today, there are over 70,000 certified chiropractors in this country.

I've seen chiropractors hundreds of times. When I had trouble getting out of bed in high school—a case of sciatica following a femur break—it seemed to be the only thing that had me walking without pain. I revisited a number of chiropractors over the decades for various reasons, including neck pain and a broken collarbone. Eventually a pattern emerged that caused me to stop going: pain relief offered by chiropractic never led to addressing the actual issue.

For example, going to a chiropractor 2-3 times a week for years alleviated my sciatica but never fully stopped it. That only happened when I began practicing yoga. Time and again, chiropractors provided temporary relief without ever pointing to the cause of the pain. Every time I found actual relief through a new exercise modality or physical therapy.

Are chiropractors worth it?

I recalled my chiropractic history after reading science journalist Kavin Senapathy's recent essay on infant adjustments. She writes about the small yet disturbing contingent of chiropractors that treat "birth trauma," a number that the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association pegs at 90 percent, but which is actually less than 3 percent. As with many forms of complementary or alternative medicine, positive studies usually appear in journals dedicated to the modality (see: acupuncture see: homeopathy).

Senapathy opens her article with the case of an Australian chiropractor adjusting a two-week-old newborn. This includes hanging the baby upside-down by the ankles and "activating" his spine by pulsing his tailbone and neck. Given the fact that during a newborn's first month of existence every movement is a reflex action, how a spinal adjustment would do anything positive for the child remains a mystery. It also points to a deeper cultural issue.

This phenomenon of a baby needing an adjustment to treat trauma is really a reflection of the emotional temperament of our time, especially, it appears, in relatively affluent Western nations. "Trauma" has broadly become a signal to discuss personal issues. There is certainly plenty of actual trauma, as victims of rape and sexual harassment and soldiers returning from war know too well. Yet trauma has also become a buzzword that people apply to minor disturbances and grievances, which sadly takes the focus away from those who need it most.

Birth trauma is also real, yet the coddling of the child is its own modern issue. I refer to it as the playground problem. In the early eighties, all of the jungle gyms I played at had some form of dangerous obstacle: rusty pipes, nails, shoddy wood, questionable bridges, slides baking in the midday sun. No parent wanted their child to get hurt, but as a brave and dumb boy part of learning meant discovering my boundaries. Sometimes a scrape or bruise teaches lessons.

Today, jungle gyms are constructed of curved plastic with soft mats or sand at the bottom. We've removed the boundaries so that children no longer have an opportunity to discover them. There might be fewer injuries, but there's also less education. Falling onto something soft during play does not prepare anyone for life, and play is an essential skill throughout the animal kingdom for learning boundaries.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine - Zephyr the dog gets a chiropractic assessment from Dr. Judith Shoemaker while the skeleton of a dog stands in the background on the classroom sidelines.

Photo by Mark Wilson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Education is essential, because the lessons you don't learn become their own limitations, only these prohibit growth. That's how the proliferation of pseudoscience began. There's little coincidence that two of our most important medical advancements—germ theory and vaccinations—greatly aided the explosion in human population. Millions of years of evolution led to one billion humans only in 1804 in just over 200 years, we're well beyond seven billion thanks to those two discoveries. Though life remains tenuous and prone to tragedy, we're better off now than ever before, which has led to the neurosis known as pseudoscience.

Enter "alternative" healing, a conglomeration of industries worth many tens of billions of dollars, many of which address the "innate trauma" we experience while basically just living. Chiropractic, admittedly on the tamer side of this industry, is like taking an aspirin. It treats symptoms and only treats causes by coincidence. There's also a good chance that what's actually aiding your muscles is the electro-stimulation and massage (if offered) more than spinal manipulation. And if your chiropractor is also offering vitamin infusions, you can be certain the business is a sham.

As with every modality, medicine that works should be investigated. Sadly, a lot of chiropractic studies show no benefit greater than placebo or painkillers. The best chiropractors I've seen offered massage before an adjustment, which makes sense: loosen the muscles pulling on the spine before adjusting the spine. But if you don't teach your patients how to strengthen those muscles on their own, they're only going to keep getting tight or weak, which is good for repeat business but terrible for healing.

Our bodies are the result of our individual movement patterns. As movement expert Katy Bowman says, no one is out of shape we're all in the exact shape that we train for. If you don't train, that's the shape you're in. Manipulating vertebrae is a useless practice without addressing the entire muscular structure of a human body and how that body moves on a regular basis.

Which is not to say that chiropractic is without value. As mentioned, it has helped me. It just never cured me. As Senapathy writes, the real problem, especially when dealing with infants, is that it could stop you from finding a professional that can heal you.

"While it's reassuring to know that chiropractors are extremely unlikely to break an infant's neck or otherwise cause physical injury, the concern is that parents who take their children to a chiropractor will do so in place of seeing a traditional primary care physician, which could delay the diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious conditions."

That's a risk we should all consider before deciding which medical professional to visit next.


What is body image?

Body image refers to how an individual sees their own body and how attractive they feel themselves to be.

Many people have concerns about their body image. These concerns often focus on weight, skin, hair, or the shape or size of a certain body part.

However, body image does not only stem from what we see in the mirror. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), a range of beliefs, experiences, and generalizations also contribute.

Throughout history, people have given importance to the beauty of the human body. Society, media, social media, and popular culture often shape these views, and this can affect how a person sees their own body.

However, popular standards are not always helpful.

Constant bombardment by media images can cause people to feel uncomfortable about their body, leading to distress and ill health. It can also affect work, social life, and other aspects of life.

This article will look at positive and negative body image and provide some tips on how to improve body image.

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Body image refers to a person’s emotional attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of their own body. Experts describe it as a complex emotional experience.

  • what a person believes about their appearance
  • how they feel about their body, height, weight, and shape
  • how they sense and control their body as they move

A person’s body image will range from positive, or satisfaction with their body, to negative, or dissatisfaction with their body.

A negative body image can contribute to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), eating disorders, and other conditions.

When a person has a positive body image, they understand that their sense of self-worth does not depend on their appearance.

Having a positive body image includes:

  • accepting and appreciating the whole of one’s body, including how it looks and what it can do
  • having a broad concept of beauty
  • having a body image that is stable
  • having inner positivity

The body positive movement aims to help people manage the pressure that media messages impose on their body image. According to The Body Positive organization, “Beauty is not a single image, but the active embodiment and celebration of the self.”

Some have asked whether accepting a larger body may deter people from taking action to be healthy. However, body positivity is not just about the size or appearance of the body. Confidence and control are also key factors.

Research suggests that focusing on building self-confidence and a positive body image may help reduce obesity and achieve wider health goals.

A person with a negative body image feels dissatisfied with their body and their appearance.

  • compare themselves with others and feel inadequate when doing so
  • feel ashamed or embarrassed
  • lack confidence
  • feel uncomfortable or awkward in their body
  • see parts of their body, such as their nose, in a distorted way

In some cases, having a negative body image can lead to the development of mental health issues, such as depression.

A person may also pursue unnecessary surgery, unsafe weight loss habits — such as crash dieting — or an inappropriate use of hormones to build muscles. There is a strong link between eating disorders and negative body image, according to the NEDA.

Some people develop BDD. A person with BDD sees a part or all of their body in a negative way. They may ask for cosmetic surgery to “correct” their nose size, for example, when to everyone else, it appears normal.

Where does a negative body image come from?

A body image does not develop in isolation. Culture, family, and friends all convey positive and negative messages about the body.

The media, peers, and family members can all influence a person’s body image. They can encourage people, even from a young age, to believe that there is an ideal body. The image is often an unnatural one.

The fashion industry also sets an unhealthy example when they employ underweight models to display their products.

Discrimination based on race, size, ability, gender orientation, and age also plays a role. Exposure to daily microaggressions at work and in society can cause people to feel that they do not measure up or that they are somehow lacking.

Illness and accidents can also have an impact. Skin conditions, a mastectomy for breast cancer, or a limb amputation can cause people to rethink how they appear to themselves and to others.

All of these factors can impact a person’s mental and physical well-being.

Studies have suggested that females who have greater resilience — linked to family support, gender role satisfaction, coping strategies, fitness, and well-being — are more likely to have a positive body image. This suggests that emotional insecurity may also contribute to a negative body image.

Body disparaging conversations include “fat talk,” which refers to when people talk about how “fat” they look or feel. These conversations can lead to further negative feelings, low mood, or negative eating patterns.

Although some people may believe that body dissatisfaction is more common among females, one review reports that female and male adolescents experience similar degrees of body dissatisfaction.

Overall, body dissatisfaction appears to persist throughout a person’s life, according to one review. That said, a study mentioned in the review found that older females were more likely to be satisfied with their bodies than younger females.

Researchers have found many similarities between a negative body image in females and males. However, males seem to be less likely to talk about it or seek help.

LGBTQIA+ communities face additional stressors when it comes to body image. Discrimination and bullying, discordance between a person’s body and their gender, and confusing images of the ideal body can all contribute.

These pressures can increase the risk of eating disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

In one study, over half of the participants who were gay, bisexual, or lesbian felt anxious or depressed about their bodies, compared with around one-third of the heterosexual respondents. Furthermore, 33% had considered suicide due to body image issues, compared with 11% of the heterosexual people surveyed.

Trans people often face additional challenges. That said, a person’s body image can become more positive over time as they make and follow up on choices about transition, such as opting for medical or surgical intervention. However, this course of action is by no means necessary for a person to develop a more positive body image.

Here are some tips that may help a person feel more positive about their body:

  • Spend time with people who have a positive outlook.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Say, “My arms are strong” rather than, “My arms are flabby.”
  • Wear comfortable clothes that look good on you.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with other people.
  • Remember that beauty is not just about appearance. what your body can do, such as laughing, dancing, and creating.
  • Be actively critical of media messages and images that make you feel as if you should be different.
  • Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself.
  • See yourself as a whole person, not an imperfect body part.
  • Do something nice for your body, such as getting a massage or a haircut.
  • Instead of spending time thinking about your body, start a hobby, become a volunteer, or do something else that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Aim for a healthful lifestyle, which might include eating a varied and nutritious diet.

Body image and physical activity

Exercise can boost a person’s confidence in their strength and agility and contribute to their mental and physical well-being. It can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

However, people exercise for different reasons.

In 2015, researchers found that people who exercise for functional reasons, such as for fitness, tend to have a more positive body image. Those who exercise to improve their appearance feel less positive about their bodies.

The study authors suggest that exercising for functional purposes rather than to improve appearance may help people foster a more positive body image.

A person with a positive body image will feel confident in their appearance and in what their body can do.

However, media messages, past experiences, and life changes can all lead to a negative self-image, which causes a person to feel unhappy with their body. In some cases, this can lead to mental health issues, such as depression.

If feelings about one’s body are causing distress, it may be beneficial to see a mental health professional. They can help a person explore the reasons for these concerns and find ways to resolve them.


How to Determine Your Body Shape

This article was co-authored by Nejla Renee. Nejla Renee is a fashion stylist, image consultant, and personal shopper based in New York, New York. With over seven years of experience, Nejla specializes in helping people enhance their positive attributes and express their identities through style. Nejla holds a BS in Marketing and Finance from Northeastern University and worked in finance prior to starting her own business. Nejla combines her business experience with her personal creativity, passion, keen eye for detail, innate sense of style, and strong understanding of fit and proportion to help her clients create peace and acceptance around their style.

There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 92% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

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Knowing your body type can be helpful for choosing clothing that will accent your best features. It’s easy to determine your body type with nothing more than a tape measure. Start by taking measurements of your bust, waist, and hips. Then, use this information to determine which body type best describes your measurements. No matter what your body type, remember that bodies come in many shapes and sizes and all bodies are beautiful!


Criticisms

While the body positivity message is intended to help people feel better about themselves, it isn’t without its problems and critics.

For example, one problem is the idea that body positivity implies that people should do whatever they think they need to do in order to feel positive about how they look. Unfortunately, the popular messages that people are bombarded with include the idea that thinner, fitter people are happier, healthier, and more beautiful. This idealization of thinness can then contribute to people engaging in unhealthy actions—including excessive exercise or extreme diets—under the guise of feeling "body positive."

Another criticism of body positivity is that it can be non-inclusive. Depictions of body positivity messages tend to exclude people of color as well as those who are disabled, LGBTQ, and non-binary.

The body images often portrayed in body-positive messages often still conform to a specific beauty ideal many people simply don’t feel included in body positivity.

Actress Jameela Jamil, who stars on the tv series The Good Place, is often described as one of the faces of the body positivity movement, which she suggests is miscategorization. In an Instagram post, Jamil explained that body positivity is essential for people who are "not believed by doctors, who are abused in the street, and who can't find clothing in their size."

However, she also recognizes that the movement isn't right for everyone and that many people feel shut out of the body positivity conversation.

Instead, Jamil suggests that she advocates for body liberation or even body neutrality. This approach involves taking your body out of the center of your self-image. She has the privilege of taking such a stance, she notes, because she is not persecuted because of her size. Other people, those who the body positivity movement is specifically aimed at, simply do not have that luxury.

Another criticism of the body positivity trend is that it makes the appearance of the body one of the most important elements of a person’s self-perception. It neglects all of the other elements of a person’s identity that are more important than how a person looks. In this aspect, Jamil’s stance, suggesting that people should stop making the body the determinant of self-worth and self-perception, might be a healthier, more inclusive approach.


Visual agnosia

Visual agnosia is an impairment in recognition of visually presented objects. It is not due to a deficit in vision (acuity, visual field, and scanning), language, memory, or intellect. [1] While cortical blindness results from lesions to primary visual cortex, visual agnosia is often due to damage to more anterior cortex such as the posterior occipital and/or temporal lobe(s) in the brain. [2] There are two types of visual agnosia: apperceptive agnosia and associative agnosia.

Recognition of visual objects occurs at two primary levels. At an apperceptive level, the features of the visual information from the retina are put together to form a perceptual representation of an object. At an associative level, the meaning of an object is attached to the perceptual representation and the object is identified. [2] If a person is unable to recognize objects because they cannot perceive correct forms of the objects, although their knowledge of the objects is intact (i.e. they do not have anomia), they have apperceptive agnosia. If a person correctly perceives the forms and has knowledge of the objects, but cannot identify the objects, they have associative agnosia. [3]


Discussion

There are three main findings. First, there was no first-order relationship between perceptions of conscientiousness, academic performance or intelligence and actual academic performance. Second, when controlling for the expected influences that age, sex and perceived attractiveness on perceptions of competence (perceived conscientiousness, academic performance and intelligence), then the relation between perceived competence and actual academic performance increased in strength. Third, perceived conscientiousness was the single best face perception predictor of actual academic performance (outperforming perceived intelligence and perceived academic performance), and again accuracy was significantly improved when controlling for the suppressor variable of attractiveness.

As we expected, the form of the relationship is one of classic suppression in which there is some factor (perceived attractiveness) that is correlated with perceptions of conscientiousness, but not correlated with actual academic performance [8–12]. When this factor is controlled, the relationship between perceived conscientiousness and actual academic performance is increased (see Fig 3). It should also be noted that, although some previous literature suggests weak correlations between attractiveness and cognitive performance measures [16], in our study perceived attractiveness was not a valid cue to actual academic performance. These results suggest that we are ‘blinded by beauty’ in a way in which we would be more accurate in our perceptions of academic performance from faces if we were not influenced by the ‘attractiveness halo’ effect.

This figure shows the noise in perceived conscientiousness (the overlap between perceived attractiveness and perceived conscientiousness) and how by suppressing this noise results in an improved predictor of actual academic performance (greater overlap between the remaining perceived conscientiousness and actual academic performance).

Given the amount of research on higher expectations and desired educational traits being ascribed to attractive students over unattractive students, it is not surprising that faces that were rated as more intelligent, having better academic performance and being more conscientious were also rated as more attractive (see composite faces in Fig 2). As predicted, there were high correlations between perceptions of attractiveness and perceptions of intelligence, conscientiousness, and academic performance, likely reflecting the strength of the attractiveness halo, as well as the similarities among these perceived competence measures [87]. While there is less evidence to suggest perceptions of intelligence and academic performance are unique constructs, the possibility that perceived conscientiousness and perceived attractiveness are not distinguishable empirically is dealt with in two ways: face validity of the items for which evaluators were clearly rating conscientiousness or attractiveness (the measures were unambiguous to the evaluators) and we calculated inter-evaluator reliabilities for conscientiousness and attractiveness ratings and even after correcting for attenuation due to measurement error, the correlations between these variables remained distinct (i.e. they were imperfectly correlated). Taken together, these elements suggest that these measures can be treated here as distinct constructs, and that they are measured with sufficient reliability to be distinguished empirically in this study. The high correlations do create potential for interpretative difficulties in multiple regression, and under such circumstances we find it important to emphasize the role of suppression in their relationship in a way that reflects the traditional understanding of the attractiveness halo.

Findings suggest that accuracy in perceptions of academic performance also increases with the clarity and validity of the question proposed. When controlling for attractiveness, age and sex, perceptions of conscientiousness in faces yielded above chance accuracy in predicting academic performance, but accuracy in predicting actual academic performance did not reach levels of statistical significance with perceptions of intelligence or perceptions of academic performance. Given the high correlations between these perceived competence measures, it is difficult to say for certain whether perceptions of conscientiousness are unique in their capacity to predict actual academic performance over and above perceptions of intelligence or academic performance. Rather, it seems perceptions of conscientiousness predicts actual academic performance because, in comparison, it may be the least ambiguous competence construct. As previously argued, it is likely that individual differences in theories and understandings of intelligence can lead, on average, to less accurate perceptions of intelligence in faces. Likewise, perceived academic performance is possibly confounded by a combination of the ambiguities in the term intelligence (fixed vs. malleable) and the limited consensus on how much intelligence (in relation to conscientiousness) is necessary for high academic performance hence the limited accuracy of perceived academic performance compared to perceived conscientiousness in predicting actual academic performance.

The improved accuracy in perceived conscientiousness predicting actual academic performance over perceived intelligence is also consistent with research that suggests that actual conscientiousness is a stronger predictor of academic performance than actual intelligence [70]. Further, the Intelligence Compensation Theory (ICT) suggests that conscientiousness acts as a coping strategy for relatively less intelligent people. While evidence for ICT is limited, some studies have found significant negative correlations between fluid intelligence and conscientiousness [72,73]. Other studies have found a significant negative correlation between crystalized intelligence and conscientiousness [88]. Thus, our findings of perceived conscientiousness better predicting actual academic performance in faces than perceived intelligence is consistent with literature suggesting actual conscientiousness is a better predictor than intelligence in predicting actual academic performance. Nonetheless, given the high correlations amongst the perceived competence variables explored (perceived intelligence, perceived academic performance and perceived conscientiousness), we must be cautious in claiming that only perceived conscientiousness is related to actual academic performance rather we argue that the specificity in rating tasks and the influence of attractiveness bias are worth considering when exploring validity of judgements based on faces.

The increased accuracy of academic performance in faces after controlling for attractiveness has important implications. Indeed, Olivola and Todorov [89] showed that judges overweigh aspects of appearance and would be more accurate in judging personality if face perception was ignored. However, facial impressions have consistently been shown to influence our opinions as well as bias decisions in politics [90], leadership [91], law [92], parental expectations and punishments on children [93], military rank promotion [94], and teacher evaluations [95]. Clearly, the power of first impressions is critical and has repeatedly been shown to influence our opinions about a person.

Furthermore, research has found that femininity is considered more attractive than masculinity [43] and that females perform better academically and stay in education longer than males [96], which likely leads to females being ascribed more desired educational traits over men. It is also well documented that older students do better on intelligence tests [97,98] and do better academically than younger students. Moreover, crystalized intelligence and perceptions of wisdom have shown to increase linearly with age [99,100], which would influence impressions of competence in older students (hence the intentionally limited university age range for facial stimuli presented). Our research suggests that when controlling for biases of attractiveness, age and sex, independently or collectively, accuracy of perceived academic performance is significantly improved.

Perhaps one of the most alarming consequences of using insufficient information to guide first impressions is the expectancy effect in education. The classic Pygmalion study conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson [101] suggests that expectations alone are capable of influencing the targets’ actual performance. Specifically, the Pygmalion study found that students who were arbitrarily assigned the label ‘bloomers’ (i.e., anticipated to show future promise) eventually scored higher on future tests than other students, even though the students labelled as ‘bloomers’ were a random sample and not any more intelligent than the other students in the class. More recent research on expectancy effects by Sorhagen [102] found that teachers’ inaccurate expectations of students in first-grade was associated with students’ academic performance in high-school and that students from lower income families were especially influenced by this bias. Likewise, De Boer, Bosker, and Van Der Werf [103] defined expectation bias as the difference between observed and predicted teacher expectation and found a significant relationship between teacher’s expectation bias of students’ performance and actual performance 5 years later. Hence, perceptions of conscientiousness, intelligence and academic performance may play a vital role in the classroom environment and in the success of a child’s education.

Future research in face perception can benefit from noting the significant differences in perception accuracy based on different theories of intelligence or competence. Perhaps more importantly, given the well documented effects of expectations of academic performance on actual academic performance, our findings help emphasize the biased effects of perceived attractiveness on expectations of academic performance. While it seems unlikely that another person’s attractiveness can be filtered out when attempting to accurately perceive academic performance, the mere knowledge of the negative influence attractiveness has on accuracy may encourage less biased practice for perhaps the best antidote to deter unconscious bias is to make conscious the possibility of bias.


Agnosia

3.1 Definition

Visual agnosia is defined as a disorder of recognition confined to the visual realm, in which a patient cannot arrive at the meaning of some or all categories of previously known nonverbal visual stimuli, despite normal or near-normal visual perception and intact alertness, attention, intelligence, and language. Typically, patients have impairments both for stimuli that they learned prior to the onset of brain injury (known as ‘retrograde’ memory), and for stimuli that they would normally have learned after their brain damage (known as ‘anterograde’ memory).


Manipulating body representation in the lab

Though the size and shape of our body changes substantially over the developmental timescale, on a day-to-day basis the form of our body remains largely constant. Moreover, we are intimately familiar with our own body, both due to its ubiquity in our perceptual experience, and because we use our body constantly to perform all of our daily activities. We might therefore suppose that our mental representations of our body would be highly rigid, and resistant to alteration. In striking contrast to this prediction, recent studies have found remarkable plasticity of body representations in response to simple sensory manipulations.

For example, Gandevia and Phegan (1999) investigated the perceptual effects of local anesthesia on perceived body size. They measured the perceived size of different body parts by asking participants to select from an array of body-part pictures the one most like their own body part. They found that cutaneous anesthesia of the thumb produced a large and rapid increase of the perceived size of the thumb. This phenomenon may be familiar to people who have undergone dental anesthesia, in which the mouth and teeth commonly feel swollen. Indeed, this effect was experimentally confirmed in a study in which participants selected from images of lips and teeth the set most like their own (Türker, Yeo, & Gandevia, 2005). Intriguingly, Gandevia and Phegan (1999) found that anesthesia of the thumb not only increased the perceived size of the thumb, but also increased the perceived size of the lips. While the thumb and lips are not adjacent on the actual body, they are adjacent in topographic maps of the body surface in somatosensory cortex (Penfield & Boldrey, 1937). Thus, this pattern of transfer suggests that changes in organization of somatosensory cortex may be driving these effects. Such results demonstrate that our experience of our body is not determined solely by stored representations, but is also shaped by the constant flow of sensory signals reaching the brain from the peripheral nerves.

In another study, Lackner (1988) used illusory arm movements elicited by applying vibration to muscle tendons to investigate the plasticity of body representations. Tendon vibration generates signals specifying muscle lengthening, although no actual muscular change occurs. Thus, vibration of the biceps tendon produces the illusion of forearm extension, while vibration of the triceps tendon produces the illusion of forearm flexion. Lackner investigated what would happen if such illusory arm movement was induced while the arm was in constant contact with another body part, such as the nose. For the forearm to move away from the face, while remaining in constant contact with the nose, the nose itself would have to be extending, like Pinocchio’s. Remarkably, many participants reported feeling like their nose was getting longer. More recent studies have shown, analogously, that with the hands placed on the hips, vibration of the biceps and triceps tendons can produce the illusion of one’s waistline become wider or slimmer, respectively (Ehrsson, Kito, Sadato, Passingham, & Naito, 2005).

The illusions produced by local anesthesia and tendon vibration alter the perceived size and shape of the body. But other recent studies have shown even more profound alterations of what things we perceive as being part of our body in the first place. For example, in the rubber hand illusion (Botvinick & Cohen, 1998), a prosthetic rubber hand is placed in front of the participant and two paintbrushes are used to touch the rubber hand and the participant’s occluded actual hand at homologous locations at exactly the same time. In many participants this creates the compelling feeling that the rubber hand really is their hand. In contrast, if the two hands are touched out of synchrony, no such experience occurs. Thus the feeling of ‘body ownership’ that we normally experience over our actual body is projected outwards to include the rubber hand on the basis of correlated visual and tactile inputs. Recent studies using virtual reality have shown similar body ownership over virtual avatars, even ones differing from participants in age, body shape and even sex (Slater, Spanlang, Sanchez-Vives, & Blanke, 2010).

Together, these results reveal that the representation of the body is remarkably malleable. Despite the seeming stability of our experience of our body, mental body representations are being continually shaped by immediate sensory experience and can be massively altered in response to changing sensory cues. Other recent results, however, have shown further that even in the absence of any intervening manipulation, the baseline representations that people have of their body are highly distorted. I will now describe these findings.


Which facial features are most important for first impressions?

Scientists know it takes humans just milliseconds to look at someone's face and judge them good-looking or trustworthy.

Now, a new study finds that certain facial features seem to trigger specific first impressions about a person's character, too.

The shape and size of the mouth, for example, appear directly linked to whether someone seems approachable, while eye dimensions are keys to attractiveness.

The study findings suggest that first impressions are fairly simple, basic and predictable, said co-author Tom Hartley, a lecturer with the department of psychology at the University of York in England.

"Our work shows which features are associated with which first impressions, so we could use this to identify pictures that project the most desirable impressions, or even perhaps tweak images to produce a specific effect," he said.

The researchers validated their research by creating cartoon-like faces that were designed to draw certain kinds of first impressions.

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"We wanted to see whether we can estimate people's first impressions of the very varied images we encounter every day, like on the Internet," Hartley said. "The impressions we create through images of our faces such as avatars or selfies are becoming more and more important in a world where we increasingly get to know one another online rather than in the flesh."

Nicholas Rule, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto in Canada, agreed.

"People are making these decisions all the time now in the context of social media. People have lots and lots of photos of themselves, which are easy to come by," said Rule, who was not involved in the study. "With this flood of images comes a choice about how someone wants to represent himself or herself."

In the study, published July 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers measured 65 physical facial features, such as eye height and eyebrow width, and tried to develop a statistical model that could accurately predict first impressions.

"By combining them we could explain over half of the variation in human raters' social judgments. This was surprisingly straightforward, and our equations involve only weighting the different physical features and adding them together," Hartley said.

Among other things, a "masculine" face -- determined in part by eyebrow height, cheekbone structure, skin color and texture -- was linked to dominance. More feminine face shapes created perceptions of attractiveness and youth, the researchers found.

"Some of our most important judgments do depend on fairly obvious features: a smile looks friendly, and an angry expression makes you less approachable," Hartley said. "However, many of the features we identified as correlated with social impressions are far less obvious. For example, an unapproachable-looking person has a pale, drawn appearance."

The main problem, as it's always been, is that the cover doesn't always reflect the book.

"The danger is that these instant judgments are inaccurate, that we misjudge people based on their appearance," Hartley said. "Worse still, we're largely unaware of the extent to which our initial feelings toward other people are influenced by appearance, and this makes us prey to unconscious biases."

Evolutionary changes may have given humans the ability to make instant judgments so they could identify potential allies and enemies, not to mention mates, Hartley said.

Along those lines, Hartley suggested that people read the study before they post a photo with their resume or online dating profile.

First published on July 29, 2014 / 10:50 AM

© 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Does chiropractic work?

Despite acceptance by many insurance companies, a number of studies don't confirm its effectiveness.

  • With over 70,000 certified chiropractors in America, the modality has gained wide acceptance.
  • Yet many studies do not show chiropractic to be more effective than placebo or pharmaceuticals.
  • Some chiropractors treat newborns as young as two weeks to help alleviate "birth trauma."

The first chiropractic adjustment took place in 1896 in an Iowa office building. D.D. Palmer, a fan of magnetic healing and anti-vaxxer, ran into the building's janitor, who was suffering from back pain he was also deaf. It's not quite clear exactly how Palmer adjusted the janitor's vertebral subluxation—a term unique to chiropractic that implies an undetectable spinal misalignment—as, with all origin stories, details are murky. Supposedly, Palmer claims the adjustment cured him of deafness the second patient he treated apparently left with no more heart disease.

Palmer was a metaphysics fan and correlated physical symptoms with spiritual phenomena chiropractic is based on the idea that energy flows block the "innate," which manifests in things like back pain. Not only did he believe chiropractic had a religious and moral purpose, he also claimed he "received" it from a deceased physician. He called chiropractic a religion he even tried to use the freedom of religion clause to circumvent the fact that he wasn't a licensed medical professional, a move that got him jailed and fined. He ended up selling his school to his son, who apparently killed him in 1913.

While Palmer's emphasis on the nervous system was an early contribution to an important physiological discourse that doctors are still uncovering today, chiropractic is still considered pseudoscience. Regardless, this is America, where suspect folk remedies and metaphysical interventions are commonplace. Within three decades there would be over 80 chiropractic schools established in the United States. Today, there are over 70,000 certified chiropractors in this country.

I've seen chiropractors hundreds of times. When I had trouble getting out of bed in high school—a case of sciatica following a femur break—it seemed to be the only thing that had me walking without pain. I revisited a number of chiropractors over the decades for various reasons, including neck pain and a broken collarbone. Eventually a pattern emerged that caused me to stop going: pain relief offered by chiropractic never led to addressing the actual issue.

For example, going to a chiropractor 2-3 times a week for years alleviated my sciatica but never fully stopped it. That only happened when I began practicing yoga. Time and again, chiropractors provided temporary relief without ever pointing to the cause of the pain. Every time I found actual relief through a new exercise modality or physical therapy.

Are chiropractors worth it?

I recalled my chiropractic history after reading science journalist Kavin Senapathy's recent essay on infant adjustments. She writes about the small yet disturbing contingent of chiropractors that treat "birth trauma," a number that the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association pegs at 90 percent, but which is actually less than 3 percent. As with many forms of complementary or alternative medicine, positive studies usually appear in journals dedicated to the modality (see: acupuncture see: homeopathy).

Senapathy opens her article with the case of an Australian chiropractor adjusting a two-week-old newborn. This includes hanging the baby upside-down by the ankles and "activating" his spine by pulsing his tailbone and neck. Given the fact that during a newborn's first month of existence every movement is a reflex action, how a spinal adjustment would do anything positive for the child remains a mystery. It also points to a deeper cultural issue.

This phenomenon of a baby needing an adjustment to treat trauma is really a reflection of the emotional temperament of our time, especially, it appears, in relatively affluent Western nations. "Trauma" has broadly become a signal to discuss personal issues. There is certainly plenty of actual trauma, as victims of rape and sexual harassment and soldiers returning from war know too well. Yet trauma has also become a buzzword that people apply to minor disturbances and grievances, which sadly takes the focus away from those who need it most.

Birth trauma is also real, yet the coddling of the child is its own modern issue. I refer to it as the playground problem. In the early eighties, all of the jungle gyms I played at had some form of dangerous obstacle: rusty pipes, nails, shoddy wood, questionable bridges, slides baking in the midday sun. No parent wanted their child to get hurt, but as a brave and dumb boy part of learning meant discovering my boundaries. Sometimes a scrape or bruise teaches lessons.

Today, jungle gyms are constructed of curved plastic with soft mats or sand at the bottom. We've removed the boundaries so that children no longer have an opportunity to discover them. There might be fewer injuries, but there's also less education. Falling onto something soft during play does not prepare anyone for life, and play is an essential skill throughout the animal kingdom for learning boundaries.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine - Zephyr the dog gets a chiropractic assessment from Dr. Judith Shoemaker while the skeleton of a dog stands in the background on the classroom sidelines.

Photo by Mark Wilson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Education is essential, because the lessons you don't learn become their own limitations, only these prohibit growth. That's how the proliferation of pseudoscience began. There's little coincidence that two of our most important medical advancements—germ theory and vaccinations—greatly aided the explosion in human population. Millions of years of evolution led to one billion humans only in 1804 in just over 200 years, we're well beyond seven billion thanks to those two discoveries. Though life remains tenuous and prone to tragedy, we're better off now than ever before, which has led to the neurosis known as pseudoscience.

Enter "alternative" healing, a conglomeration of industries worth many tens of billions of dollars, many of which address the "innate trauma" we experience while basically just living. Chiropractic, admittedly on the tamer side of this industry, is like taking an aspirin. It treats symptoms and only treats causes by coincidence. There's also a good chance that what's actually aiding your muscles is the electro-stimulation and massage (if offered) more than spinal manipulation. And if your chiropractor is also offering vitamin infusions, you can be certain the business is a sham.

As with every modality, medicine that works should be investigated. Sadly, a lot of chiropractic studies show no benefit greater than placebo or painkillers. The best chiropractors I've seen offered massage before an adjustment, which makes sense: loosen the muscles pulling on the spine before adjusting the spine. But if you don't teach your patients how to strengthen those muscles on their own, they're only going to keep getting tight or weak, which is good for repeat business but terrible for healing.

Our bodies are the result of our individual movement patterns. As movement expert Katy Bowman says, no one is out of shape we're all in the exact shape that we train for. If you don't train, that's the shape you're in. Manipulating vertebrae is a useless practice without addressing the entire muscular structure of a human body and how that body moves on a regular basis.

Which is not to say that chiropractic is without value. As mentioned, it has helped me. It just never cured me. As Senapathy writes, the real problem, especially when dealing with infants, is that it could stop you from finding a professional that can heal you.

"While it's reassuring to know that chiropractors are extremely unlikely to break an infant's neck or otherwise cause physical injury, the concern is that parents who take their children to a chiropractor will do so in place of seeing a traditional primary care physician, which could delay the diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious conditions."

That's a risk we should all consider before deciding which medical professional to visit next.


What is body image?

Body image refers to how an individual sees their own body and how attractive they feel themselves to be.

Many people have concerns about their body image. These concerns often focus on weight, skin, hair, or the shape or size of a certain body part.

However, body image does not only stem from what we see in the mirror. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), a range of beliefs, experiences, and generalizations also contribute.

Throughout history, people have given importance to the beauty of the human body. Society, media, social media, and popular culture often shape these views, and this can affect how a person sees their own body.

However, popular standards are not always helpful.

Constant bombardment by media images can cause people to feel uncomfortable about their body, leading to distress and ill health. It can also affect work, social life, and other aspects of life.

This article will look at positive and negative body image and provide some tips on how to improve body image.

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Body image refers to a person’s emotional attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of their own body. Experts describe it as a complex emotional experience.

  • what a person believes about their appearance
  • how they feel about their body, height, weight, and shape
  • how they sense and control their body as they move

A person’s body image will range from positive, or satisfaction with their body, to negative, or dissatisfaction with their body.

A negative body image can contribute to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), eating disorders, and other conditions.

When a person has a positive body image, they understand that their sense of self-worth does not depend on their appearance.

Having a positive body image includes:

  • accepting and appreciating the whole of one’s body, including how it looks and what it can do
  • having a broad concept of beauty
  • having a body image that is stable
  • having inner positivity

The body positive movement aims to help people manage the pressure that media messages impose on their body image. According to The Body Positive organization, “Beauty is not a single image, but the active embodiment and celebration of the self.”

Some have asked whether accepting a larger body may deter people from taking action to be healthy. However, body positivity is not just about the size or appearance of the body. Confidence and control are also key factors.

Research suggests that focusing on building self-confidence and a positive body image may help reduce obesity and achieve wider health goals.

A person with a negative body image feels dissatisfied with their body and their appearance.

  • compare themselves with others and feel inadequate when doing so
  • feel ashamed or embarrassed
  • lack confidence
  • feel uncomfortable or awkward in their body
  • see parts of their body, such as their nose, in a distorted way

In some cases, having a negative body image can lead to the development of mental health issues, such as depression.

A person may also pursue unnecessary surgery, unsafe weight loss habits — such as crash dieting — or an inappropriate use of hormones to build muscles. There is a strong link between eating disorders and negative body image, according to the NEDA.

Some people develop BDD. A person with BDD sees a part or all of their body in a negative way. They may ask for cosmetic surgery to “correct” their nose size, for example, when to everyone else, it appears normal.

Where does a negative body image come from?

A body image does not develop in isolation. Culture, family, and friends all convey positive and negative messages about the body.

The media, peers, and family members can all influence a person’s body image. They can encourage people, even from a young age, to believe that there is an ideal body. The image is often an unnatural one.

The fashion industry also sets an unhealthy example when they employ underweight models to display their products.

Discrimination based on race, size, ability, gender orientation, and age also plays a role. Exposure to daily microaggressions at work and in society can cause people to feel that they do not measure up or that they are somehow lacking.

Illness and accidents can also have an impact. Skin conditions, a mastectomy for breast cancer, or a limb amputation can cause people to rethink how they appear to themselves and to others.

All of these factors can impact a person’s mental and physical well-being.

Studies have suggested that females who have greater resilience — linked to family support, gender role satisfaction, coping strategies, fitness, and well-being — are more likely to have a positive body image. This suggests that emotional insecurity may also contribute to a negative body image.

Body disparaging conversations include “fat talk,” which refers to when people talk about how “fat” they look or feel. These conversations can lead to further negative feelings, low mood, or negative eating patterns.

Although some people may believe that body dissatisfaction is more common among females, one review reports that female and male adolescents experience similar degrees of body dissatisfaction.

Overall, body dissatisfaction appears to persist throughout a person’s life, according to one review. That said, a study mentioned in the review found that older females were more likely to be satisfied with their bodies than younger females.

Researchers have found many similarities between a negative body image in females and males. However, males seem to be less likely to talk about it or seek help.

LGBTQIA+ communities face additional stressors when it comes to body image. Discrimination and bullying, discordance between a person’s body and their gender, and confusing images of the ideal body can all contribute.

These pressures can increase the risk of eating disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

In one study, over half of the participants who were gay, bisexual, or lesbian felt anxious or depressed about their bodies, compared with around one-third of the heterosexual respondents. Furthermore, 33% had considered suicide due to body image issues, compared with 11% of the heterosexual people surveyed.

Trans people often face additional challenges. That said, a person’s body image can become more positive over time as they make and follow up on choices about transition, such as opting for medical or surgical intervention. However, this course of action is by no means necessary for a person to develop a more positive body image.

Here are some tips that may help a person feel more positive about their body:

  • Spend time with people who have a positive outlook.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Say, “My arms are strong” rather than, “My arms are flabby.”
  • Wear comfortable clothes that look good on you.
  • Avoid comparing yourself with other people.
  • Remember that beauty is not just about appearance. what your body can do, such as laughing, dancing, and creating.
  • Be actively critical of media messages and images that make you feel as if you should be different.
  • Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself.
  • See yourself as a whole person, not an imperfect body part.
  • Do something nice for your body, such as getting a massage or a haircut.
  • Instead of spending time thinking about your body, start a hobby, become a volunteer, or do something else that makes you feel good about yourself.
  • Aim for a healthful lifestyle, which might include eating a varied and nutritious diet.

Body image and physical activity

Exercise can boost a person’s confidence in their strength and agility and contribute to their mental and physical well-being. It can also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression.

However, people exercise for different reasons.

In 2015, researchers found that people who exercise for functional reasons, such as for fitness, tend to have a more positive body image. Those who exercise to improve their appearance feel less positive about their bodies.

The study authors suggest that exercising for functional purposes rather than to improve appearance may help people foster a more positive body image.

A person with a positive body image will feel confident in their appearance and in what their body can do.

However, media messages, past experiences, and life changes can all lead to a negative self-image, which causes a person to feel unhappy with their body. In some cases, this can lead to mental health issues, such as depression.

If feelings about one’s body are causing distress, it may be beneficial to see a mental health professional. They can help a person explore the reasons for these concerns and find ways to resolve them.


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