Interacting with others while wearing nothing but your birthday suit can lead to improvements in body image, according to a new randomized controlled trial published in The Journal of Sex Research. The study indicates that communal nakedness tends to reduce social physique anxiety.
“A large chunk of my research looks at prejudice and specifically sexual prejudice (i.e., prejudice against anyone who isn’t perceived as heterosexual and heteronormative). This may surprise many people, but sexual prejudice is often correlated with other types of thinking, such as sexism and other forms of overall sexual restrictiveness,” explained Keon West, an associate professor of social psychology and the director of Equalab at Goldsmiths, University of London.
“I do think that getting a better understanding of the pros, cons, and responses to nakedness can help us build a society where people are freer and happier. Of course, it’s also more fun to do a study on nakedness and improving body image than another study on prejudice, which always makes me a bit sad.”
West used online advertisements, which warned that “some participants may be asked to take part in safe, non-sexual nude activity,” to recruit 27 men and 24 women from the London area.
After arriving at a bar with two separate rooms of similar size and layout, the participants completed a measure of body appreciation. They were randomly divided into two groups and separated. The control group was asked to “enjoy yourself in the company of the other participants,” while the experimental group was asked to do the same — but to do so naked.
The participants freely interacted with one another for about 45 minutes before completing various psychological assessments, including a second measure of body appreciation.
The researchers found that participants who got naked reported more positive body image afterward. Those in the control group, on the other hand, did not display an improvement. The findings suggest that “getting naked around strangers (in a safe environment) improves your body image,” West told PsyPost.
West also found evidence that the improved body image among those who got naked was related to reduced social physique anxiety. “This is (at least partially) because it reduces your anxiety about other people evaluating your body negatively,” he explained.
“This really isn’t just a case of more confident people being more likely to get naked. The experimental paradigm here makes it clear that causality is running from getting naked to feeling better about your body.”
The findings are in line with West’s previous research on nudity and naturist activities, which have been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies and the International Journal of Happiness and Development. “It’s really starting to build up a picture of the effects we can expect from taking part in naked activities,” West said.
Original publication 8 October, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 13th March 2021
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