The Influence of Time of Day Preference on Body Image and Mood in College-Aged Women

Kristen Miglinas

Abstract Discussion
Introduction Tables
Methods Appendices
Results References
Relevant Links



     This study was designed to find a relationship between time of day preference, body image and mood in college-aged women. Literature shows that mood can influence body image in women, and that mood can change over the course of a day. There are no other known studies dealing with the relationship between body image and time of day preference. It was predicted that participants who classify themselves as “morning” people would experience a more positive body image and more positive moods in the morning than at night. Participants were classified as “morning” or “evening” people by use of Horne and Ostberg’s (1976) Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ). It was also predicted that participants who classify themselves as “evening” people would experience more positive moods, and a more positive body image in the evening, than they would experience in the morning. Measurements were taken at 8:00am and 8:00pm. The first session could be at either time, as long as the second was twelve hours later. Participants were given at each session the Profile of Mood States Questionnaire (POMS; Mcnair, Lorr, Dropppleman, 1992) and the MEQ, and were also asked to complete the Body Shape Preference Test (Stunkard, Sorenson, Schulsinger, 1983). At the second session participants filled out the same measurements again, and were also given a background questionnaire developed by the experimenter, which aided in explaining confounding variables, but was not formally assessed. Participants were then fully debriefed, given credit, and thanked for their participation. Overall results were not statistically significant and so did not support the hypotheses. Although the POMS measure of tension was marginally significant, it was not in the predicted direction. Results indicate that there may be some truth to the hypotheses, despite the fact that they were not significant. A larger sample could be used in the future, and the relationship between body image and time of day should be explored further in future research.

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    Body image (BI), is defined as the mental image of the body, including both perceptions and attitudes (Rudd and Lennon, 2000). The interest and number of studies concerning body image reflects society’s fixation with BI, and highlights the importance of this subject. Body image has been studied in relation with many variables, including genetics, attitude, sex, and race (Wade, Wilkinson & Ben-Tovim, 2003; Carlson, 2004; Molloy, Herzberger, 2002). An interesting variable that has been related to body image is mood. The relationship between mood and body image has been widely researched and studied, in many contexts and under many different conditions. However, a study concerning the effect of time of day preference on mood and body image, specifically in women, has not been found. The intent of the present research is to discover if time of day preference influences college-aged women’s mood and body image.
    Body image is not a trivial subject dealing only with women who are concerned about their weight. A person with an extremely negative BI may become bulimic, anorexic, or suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (Foster, Wadden and Vogt, 1997). Rudd and Lennon (2000) studied appearance-management of college-aged women, to determine how far they would go to keep up their appearances to feel and stay attractive.
    Western cultures define an attractive woman as possessing a combination of facial attractiveness, thinness, and fitness. Rudd and Lennon (2000) believe that because women in western cultures have not traditionally held positions of power, they have used attractiveness as a means to gain access to that power and privilege. If women do identify themselves by their attractiveness, as the only way to gain power, it is easy to understand why body image is so important. Because attractiveness is so valued by women and society, women will go to great lengths to keep up their appearance, including cosmetic surgery, and excessive dieting or exercising.
    This study is particularly interesting because instead of using only quantitative measures, it employed qualitative measures. Rudd and Lennon (2000) asked 99 female undergraduate college students ages 19 to 24, to answer some survey and essay questions about their body image and appearance-management methods. Examples of questions asked are; “How satisfied are college women with their appearance?” and “What appearance-management behaviors do college women typically practice?” Researchers evaluated the essays and the participants were also asked to answer questions on a five point Likert Scale on body image dissatisfaction. From the Likert scale it was found that 48% of participants were satisfied with their bodies, whereas 15% were dissatisfied and wanted to lose weight. The evaluations of the essay questions revealed that body image and upkeep of that image are central to the identities of college women. Some participants identified their methods of appearance-management as being unhealthy, yet that did not stop them. For these women risky behaviors such as disordered eating, substance abuse and over exercising, were worth the risk, as long as they still felt attractive (Rudd and Lennon, 2000). This study indicates that body image is not a topic that should be taken lightly.
    In supporting their hypothesis Rudd and Lennon included a study by Stice and Shaw (1994) the results of which found that exposure to images of the thin western ideal of a woman, produced a negative affective state in undergraduate women. This negative state included: guilt, shame, unhappiness, insecurity, and body dissatisfaction. These results were supported by the results of Tiggemann and McGill (2004) who found that the “futile pursuit of thinness lowers self-esteem and increases depression” (p.24).  They argue that the mass media are the most powerful influence on women’s body image today. At least several studies have examined the relationship between exposure to fashion magazines and body image and have found positive correlations (Stice and Shaw, 1994; Barber, 2001; Tiggemann, McGill, 2004) However, it has been argued that this could be because women with a negative body image may seek out these fashion magazines and other popular media to aid them in their quest for attractiveness. This study focused on the role of social comparison in the effect of magazine ads on women’s body dissatisfaction and mood. Mood is an important factor that has not received much attention in respect to body image in women. Tiggemann and McGill (2004) predicted that if they exposed women to magazine ads depicting thin women, that the ads would have an effect on the level of body dissatisfaction and moods of the women involved.   They predicted this on the basis that most women do not measure up to the ideal western standards of feminine beauty and thinness, and so any social comparison they make to the magazine ads would make them recognize these shortcomings and would cause them to have higher levels of body dissatisfaction and a more negative mood.  One hundred and twenty-six female undergraduates were used for this study and were all between the ages of 18 and 28. The study consisted of two sessions. During the first session the participants completed questionnaires dealing with appearance comparison, and internalization of the thin ideal.  Two weeks later at the second session of the study the participants looked at magazines with ads depicting thin women and were asked to complete the appearance comparison questionnaire again. They also rated visual analogue scales and a trait anxiety scale. After the second session each participant was weighed and their height measured. The results of this study were consistent with past studies of the same nature (Pinhas, Toner, Ali, Garfinkel, & Stuckless, 1999; Tiggemann, McGill, 2004). Viewing the thin figures in magazines, as predicted, resulted in more negative moods and higher levels of body image dissatisfaction in the participants. Surprisingly it took a very short exposure time for these negative effects to show themselves. Women previously shown eleven images in only ten minutes had significantly higher levels of body dissatisfaction and significantly more negative moods after the exposure. The results also showed that the more a woman compared herself with an ad, the more negative her mood and body image were after the viewing the image. This study shows some interesting effects on mood that have not been explored in much depth before. From this study it can be predicted that mood is related to body image, and that this relationship may be important.
    It has been found that moods vary and change throughout the course of a day (Marco, Neale, Schwartz, Stone and Shiffman, 1999).  Research concerning why moods occur when they do has been mostly limited to stress and events. However, it has been found that some people are consistently most alert and perform best on work related tasks at certain times of the day. This can be predicted by a person’s circadian rhythm, which is the “periodicity of the physiological (e.g. body temperature) and psychological (e.g. mood) variables”. The length of the circadian rhythm is 24 hours and fluctuations within this rhythm predict when a person is likely to be at their best (Guthrie, Ash and Bendapudi, 1995). “Morning people” have been found to wake up at a time when their drive for sleep is decreasing, and when performance and alertness are best, as according to their circadian rhythm. “Evening people” wake up at a time in their circadian rhythms when alertness and performance are not at their best, and when the drive for sleep is still high (Duffy, Rimmer and Czeisler, 2001). Behavior and affect have also been found to differ between morning and evening people (Guthrie, Ash and Bendapudi, 1995; Duffy, Rimmer and Czeisler, 2001). Most of the studies dealing with morningness and eveningness have been conducted because of a need for information about shift workers, and how to improve their performance and alertness. However Guthrie, Ash, and Bendapudi (1995) centered their study on college students. They used 454 undergraduates, 48% who were women, with an average age of 22.7 years. Each participant took a morningness questionnaire at the beginning of a semester and kept a diary of their sleeping habits for one week. At the end of the semester their grades were obtained with permission. Results found a positive and significant correlation between students who rated high in morningness and GPA for the semester. This provides evidence that morningness influences academic performance in early morning classes (8:00 am and 8:30 am classes). Other reasons that the results were significant may have to do with the evening oriented students. They may not do so well in the morning simply because they are not yet at their performance peak, also, they may stay up later despite having to get up early, and so are disadvantage because of a lack of sleep.
    The relationship between body image and mood has been previously explored (Tiggemann and McGill, 2004). However, how body image and mood change as a function of time of day preference has not yet been tested. It is the intent of this study to evaluate the relationship between TOD and BI. From the above research it can be predicted that morning people will have a better body image and be in a more positive mood in the morning, than evening people. It can also be predicted that evening people will have a more positive body image and be in a more positive mood in the evening, than the morning people.
    More specifically it is predicted that when tested both in the morning and the evening, participants classified as morning people will show higher levels of positive moods (vigor) as measured by the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (POMS; Mcnair, Lorr, Droppleman, 1992) and lower levels of negative moods (tension, anxiety, confusion, fatigue, and depression) as measured by the POMS in the morning than in the evening. It is also predicted the participants classified as morning people will choose smaller body’s as their ideal bodies, their perceived bodies and as those that the opposite sex would be most attracted to in the morning than in the evening. For the participants classified as evening people, it is predicted that they will score higher on the positive moods as measured by the POMS in the evening, and lower on the negative moods in the evening than in the morning. It is also predicted that the evening people will choose smaller bodies for their perceived bodies, ideal bodies, and those bodies that they feel members of the opposite sex would be most attracted to, in the evening than in the morning.

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    The participants in this study included a sample of 24 freshman female students attending a small Catholic liberal arts college located in New England. Participants ranged between the ages of 18 and 22. Participants filled out the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) created by Horne and Ostberg (1976). They also completed the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (Mcnair, Lorr & Droppleman, 1992), and the Body Shape Preference test (Stunkard, Sorenson, & Shulsinger,1983).

    The Profile of Mood States (POMS) was given to each participant in this study at each session. The POMS presents participants with 65 adjectives relating to affect (e.g. terrified, muddled). The adjectives are rated by the participants on a scale of 0 to 6, meaning not at all, to extremely, respectively. Results indicated how a participant had been feeling during the past week, including the day of assessment. The POMS measures six areas of mood: tension/anxiety, depression, anger/hostility, vigor/activity, fatigue/inertia, confusion, and total mood disturbance. This instrument was used on all participants in both sessions.
    A second instrument used in this study was the Body Shape Preference Test. This self-report test was developed by Stunkard, Sorenson and Shulsinger in 1983. This test consists of nine figures that resemble varying body types of men and women ranging and in order of, “very thin” bodies to “very obese” bodies. Each figure is rated with a number placed under it. The numbers ranged from 1 to 9, representing the “extremely thin” figure, to the “extremely obese” figure, respectively. For the purposes of this study only the female figures were used. Also below the figures were three questions designed to find out whether the participant had a negative, positive, or neutral body image at the time of the test (see appendix A).
    A third instrument used in this study was the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) developed by Horne and Ostberg (1976). It is a 19-item questionnaire with one of five possible results for each participant taking this questionnaire: Definite morning type, moderate morning type, neither type, moderate evening type, and definite evening type. For the purposes of this study the moderate morning types were classified as morning people, and the moderate evening types were classified as evening people. The possible scores range from 16 to 86, the higher score indicating morning types (69-86) and a lower score indicating evening types (16-41), with the middle scores (42-58) indicating that a participant is neither morning nor an evening type (see appendix B).
    A background information sheet was given to each participant at the end of the second session. This questionnaire was developed by the experimenter to gather any information that may be helpful to this study. The intent of the background information sheet was to catch external confounding variables that the researcher may have needed to be aware of (see appendix C).

    Participants signed up to meet on a pre-determined date at  8:00am and 8:00pm. Upon arrival they were told they were taking part in a study about test-taking and circadian rhythm. All participants received a consent form that was completed before the start of the study, and were also given general written instructions (see appendix D) before completing each questionnaire or tests. Some of these participants volunteered after having been asked to participate in the present study, and did not receive credit as most of the participants did.  Half of the participants had their first session at 8:00am and the other half met at 8:00pm on the same day, or the next morning. At this first session all participants completed the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (POMS; McNair, Lorr, Droppleman, 1992); the Body Shape Preference test (Stunkard, Sorenson and Schulsinger, 1983) and The Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire created by Horne and Ostberg (1976). For the second session, participants met at the opposite time of day that they had met before, twelve hours later at either 8:00am or 8:00pm. At this second meeting participants completed the POMS, the Body Shape Preference Test, and the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire again. This time however, they were asked to provide some background information about their usual sleep and daytime schedules. After the background information was given all participants were fully debriefed (see appendix E), given credit if needed, and thanked for their participation.

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    The dependant variables in this study include the subscales of the POMS, as measured at the 8:00am and 8:00pm experimental sessions, these are: tension, depression, fatigue, anger, confusion, and vigor. Measures of perceived body image, ideal body image, and perceived opposite sex attraction where also taken at both sessions. Because each participant was tested on all of these variables twice, a 2(time of measurement) x3(time of day preference, morning, evening, and  neither) repeated measure analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to analyze the results. Of the 24 participants 6 classified themselves as morning people, 11 as evening people, and the remaining 7 were classified as “neither type” participants. The only significant effect was that on the subscale of tension F(1, 21)=5.47, p=.029. The means indicate this does not support the hypothesis that participants who classify themselves as evening people would experience higher levels of tension morning than at night. However it does support the hypothesis that participants who classify themselves as morning people would experience higher levels of tension in the evening than in the morning. There were no significant differences found for the measures of depression, confusion, fatigue, vigor, or anger throughout the day whether a participant classified herself as a morning, evening, or neither type of person. Although the results were not statistically significant, means were in the predicted direction for the measures of fatigue and confusion for at least one of the time of day categories (see Table 1). In addition there were no significant differences found between what the participants viewed as their ideal body, or as their perceived body at different times of day. The same can be said for what the participants chose as what they thought the opposite sex would be most attracted to. Some trends towards the hypothesis for the means of the Body Shape Preference test can be found (see Table 2). For the measures of the perceived body the morning people perceived themselves to have a larger body in the evening than in the morning, as predicted. The means for the evening people indicate they rated a smaller body as most attractive to the opposite sex in the morning than in the evening. Although these results are not statistically significant, they do indicate a trend toward the predicted direction.

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    The current study was designed to find a relationship between time of day preference, mood and body image. It was predicted that participants who classify themselves as “morning” people, and who therefore prefer this time of day, would experience more positive moods and a more positive body image in the morning than in the evening. It was also predicted that people who classify themselves as “evening” people, and therefore prefer this time of day, would experience more positive moods and a more positive body image in the evening than in the morning. Specifically it was predicted that the morning people would score lower on the POMS subscales of anger, tension, confusion, depression and fatigue in the morning, and higher on the subscale of vigor in the morning. It was also predicted that the morning people would view their own bodies, their ideal bodies and the bodies they perceived the opposite sex to be most attracted to as smaller in the morning than they would view them in the evening. For those classified as evening people, it was predicted that they would score lower on the subscales of anger, tension, confusion, depression and fatigue during the evening than during the morning, and would score higher on the subscale of vigor in the evening than in the morning. The evening people were expected to view their own bodies, their ideal bodies, and the bodies they thought the opposite sex would be most attracted to as smaller in the evening, than in the morning.
     Results were not consistent with the hypotheses as there were no significant differences between measurements of moods or body image for morning or evening people at either time of day. There was a marginal statistical significance for the subscale measure of tension. Means indicated that levels of tension were higher in the evening than in the morning, a finding that was only consistent with the hypothesis that morning people would be more tense in the evening. This went against the predicted direction however, for the evening people who were hypothesized to be more tense in the morning than at night. These results are contrary to the results of Watts, Cox and Robson (1983) who also used female participants, although not all were university students, to find a difference between mood and time of day. They also used the Morngingness and Eveningness Questionnaire (Horne and Ostberg, 1976) used in the present study. The present study found overall levels of tension to be higher in the evening, while Watts, Cox and Robson (1983) found that stress scores, which can be likened to tension, showed no significant difference due to time of day. However, consistent with the results of the present study, Watts, Cox and Robson did find that levels of stress did not change significantly as according to whether a participant was classified as a morning or evening person. The fact that Watts, Cox and Robson (1983) did not find levels of stress to be higher in the evening is interesting. This may be related to the fact that they did not use only women who are college students. It is possible that female college students, who have homework and tasks to complete in the evening, would be more stressed and tense than a working women who’s most relaxing time of day is in the evening, provided she does not have to take work home with her.
    The fact that the results of the present study did not support the hypotheses could be for a variety of reasons. It is reasonable to believe that had there been a larger subject pool used for this study the results would have been statistically significant. This is evident by the fact that some of the measures did support the hypotheses, but weren’t statistically significant. There are also some confounding variables to take into account when examining why this study did not yield the expected results. Because the participants in this study all came from the same school, and most came from the psychology department, is fair to say that the sample used was to homogenous to represent the entire population of college-aged women. It is also important to realize that the experimenter had no control over the events experienced during the time in-between the participant’s first and second sessions. It is likely that there were some events on the day of measurement that influenced participant’s moods when there wouldn’t have been a change otherwise, such as a bad grade received, or a fight with a friend.  This is also a good example of why every type of person, morning, evening and neither type, were all more tense in the evening.
    Contrary to past research (Fallon, & Rozin, 1985) there was no significant difference between morning and evening for subjects’ chosen ideal bodies, and what they perceived the opposite sex would choose as the ideal female body. The participants classified as morning types chose larger perceived bodies, the bodies they perceived themselves to have, in the evening than they did in the morning. While this finding was not statistically significant, the means were in the predicted direction. No measures were taken to explore the relationship between perceived body and the ideal body, however the relationship between the two variables may have affected the results. In a study by Guaraldi, Orlandi, Borselli, and O’Donnell (1999), the relationship between perceived body, ideal body, and body dissatisfaction was explored. Participants used in this study were all females between 15 and 65 years of age. Results showed that there is a relationship between the ideal and perceived body. It was found that the ideal body image a woman possesses effects her perceived body; the taller and thinner a woman’s ideal was, the taller and thinner she perceived herself to be. It is possible that if participants in the present study held the same ideal body image in both sessions, then their perceived body would not change either. This may explain why participants did not choose significantly different perceived bodies or ideal bodies between the two sessions. This relationship is one of importance and it is suggested that it be studied further in relation to time of day in the future.
    The results of the present study lead to the conclusion that the hypotheses may be correct if studied on a larger scale. Body image is central to the identities of western women and is an important subject to be studied. The way women perceive themselves effects their self-esteem, which in turn can affect overall success in life (Tiggemann, 1997). The present study served to explore body image and the variables that affect it further and to try to establish a relationship between time of day, mood and body image.

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Table 1
Between-Group Mean Scores for the POMS at Both Times of Day Measured

                                        Morning                                       Evening                                      Neither
                       AM     SEM      PM      SEM           AM      SEM       PM     SEM           AM      SEM       PM       SEM
Tension              11.50    2.03      13.17    2.36           9.45    1.50      11.91   1.74          12.14    1.88      14.14   2.19

Depression         6.00     3.58      6.50      3.84           5.91     2.64      6.82      2.83        16.00    3.31     13.86    3.55

Anger                6.67       2.32     6.83       2.87          5.45     1.71     7.18      2.12        13.00    2.15     12.71     2.66

Fatigue             11.67      2.28    13.17      2.56         10.72    1.68     10.12     1.89        13.00     2.11    10.29     2.37

Vigor                12.17       2.01    11.00      2.22        13.27     1.48     14.00     1.64        11.86     1.86    10.00    2.05

Confusion         8.50        1.79     9.67       1.82         9.00      1.32        1.34      8.10      1.66     10.43     1.68    9.43

Table 2
Between-Groups Mean Scores For the Body Shape Preference Test at Both Times of Day

                             Morning                                     Evening                                     Neither
                       AM     SEM     PM      SEM       AM     SEM    PM      SEM     AM     SEM    PM      SEM

Perceived      4.83      .52      5.00     .52          3.27     .386     3.27     .38         3.71     .48       3.71     .47

Ideal             3.33       .30       3.16    .29           2.45     .23       2.63     .21        2.71     .28       2.71     .27

Opposite       2.83      .27       3.00     .25          2.54     .20        2.72     .18        3.00     .255     3.00      .23
Sex ideal


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Appendix A


Appendix B

Sample Questions from the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire:
(Horne, Ostberg, 1976)

1.Considering your knowledge of yourself,                               5:30am- 6:30am                                                                                                                              at what time would you get up if you were                                6:30am- 7:45am
entirely free to plan your day?                                                  7:45am- 9:45 am
                                                                                               9:45am- 11:00am
                                                                                               11:00am- 12:00am
                                                                                               Later than 12:00am

7. During the first half-hour after having woken in                       Very tired
the morning, how tired to you feel?                                             Fairly tired
                                                                                                 Fairly refreshed
                                                                                                 Very refreshed

Appendix C

Additional Information

Year of Graduation: Age:

1. Please list your usual routine for each night and morning making sure to write in the approximate time for each event. Be sure to include:

2. Do you have any special obligations that effect what time you would be going to bed, or waking up? (I.e sports played, late-night job)

Appendix D

General Instructions:

    Thank you for agreeing to participate in this study. I am interested in investigating the relationship between circadian rhythm and test-taking performance. All of your information and answers will be kept confidential. This packet contains three different instruments. Please make sure to complete each instrument fully. Be sure to answer all questions in order, and please do not skip ahead. At the second session you will receive the same three tests, and one additional questionnaire. Participation in both sessions is worth two credits.

Appendix E

Feedback to Participants:

    Thank you for your participation in this study. Past research has demonstrated a relationship between body image and mood, and time of day and mood, but I have yet to come across another study dealing with the relationship between time of day and body image. The current study is looking to find a relationship between body image of college aged women and time of day, to explore the idea that a women who is a "morning" person will be in a better mood and experience a more positive self body image in the morning than at night. The same idea can be applied to "evening" persons. You filled out a series of questionnaires designed to assess these constructs. It is important to remember there are no right or wrong answers. Different people react in many ways at different times of day. All of your information will be kept strictly confidential and the final group results will be made available to you upon request. Your further participation is asked in that you not discuss this study with anyone until it is completed. If you have any questions about this study, or would like a copy of the results please contact me later at Full participation in this study is worth two credits.

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Relevant Links 

Click on the links below to learn more about women's body image:

Click here to complete a condensed version of Horne and Osterberg's (1976) Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire. This is a helpful link if you are interested in discovering if you classify as a "morning" person, an "evening" person, or neither type.

Key Words

Body Image
Time of Day
Time of Day Preference

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