3D technology can help young women better appreciate their bodies, said Virginia Ramseyer Winter, assistant professor in the School of Social Work and director of the MU Center for Body Image Research and Policy, who is a nationally recognized body image expert.
"3D body image scanning is a relatively new tool in social science research, and the research on using 3D tools for improving body image is scant," Ramseyer Winter said. "We wanted to see if it could provide a way to help young women shift their focus away from appearance and toward function."
In her study, young adult women between the ages of 18 and 25 were scanned in a 3D scanner used by researchers and students in MU's Department of Textile and Apparel Management. The researchers used modeling software to convert the scans to 3D avatars. Participants then digitally "painted" body parts that they appreciated for various reasons such as their utility or role in their relationships.
"While more research still needs to be done on the relationship between the 3D image intervention we used and its impact on mental health, we did see a significant effect on body appreciation," Ramseyer Winter said. "Prior research has shown that body appreciation is related to depression and anxiety, which leads us to think that we are on the right track in creating an intervention that can improve not only body image, but mental health as well."
Future research will look at how painting the 3D avatars impacts young women with more severe depression.