What Do You See in the Mirror?
Self-image is important especially when overall perception is skewed, according to British researchers. It seems that, strangely enough, we have an ability to wrongfully assess our dimensions. In other words, to ourselves we appear shorter and stubbier than we really are.
According to the Body Odd on MSNBC, Dr. Matthew Longo and colleagues from University College London conducted a study with a group of volunteers, which asked them to put their left hands, palm down, under a board. The volunteers were then asked to indicate on the surface of the board the location of the covered hand's knuckles and fingertips. The results of the study were surprising: each volunteer effectively and easily imagined a hand that was two-thirds wider and one-third shorter than its actual size.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Longo's study proved one astonishing thing: Apparently, the old saying "like the back of my hand" no longer applies to us, because we don't actually know the backs of our own hands.
The study benefits those with eating disorders and gives psychiatrists and psychologists another tool for therapy and treatment of such disorders. Longo himself said that the findings may well be relevant to psychiatric conditions involving body image such as anorexia nervosa, as there may be a general bias towards perceiving the body to be wider than it is. Even more surprising is that this new research established data from healthy people. Profoundly, this skewed body image is a 'natural' characteristic and not a symptom of a psychological disorder. Although with disorders, the perception skews even more than it should.
Mia Holland, chairperson of the counseling studies department at Capella University, explains this concept in detail, stating that counselors will at times ask patients suffering from anorexia to draw a life-size picture of themselves and then ask patients to lie down on the drawing while someone else traces the patients' actual size on the same paper. When looking at the difference between the patient's perceived drawing and the actual tracing, jaws drop in shock. In some cases, a size four patient will draw herself as a size 14, which is staggering. Illustrating for the patient is crucial in helping them understand the disorder and face it head on. We look in the mirror and see a completely different person, as research has shown. The mystery then is: why?