Do Photoshop Disclaimers Work?

In a post earlier this year, we looked into the link between body dissatisfaction and the use of social media. It turns out some countries have been trying to do something about it, but there is a big question mark about whether these regulations really work.

Countries have passed laws regarding weight requirements and other guidelines to protect models in the fashion industry. Some have implemented Photoshop disclaimer labeling policies to show the viewer that the images are not “real.”

France enacted a disclaimer law in 2016 and Norway passed a similar regulation last summer mandating all edited images be clearly labeled as having been altered. 

But, does any of this have any effect?

Researchers have studied the implementation of disclaimer labels. A study at Flinders University in Australia may disappoint disclaimer advocates.

In the study, 363 female undergraduate students viewed various fashion advertisements, testing whether prior information they had about digital alteration could improve the effectiveness of a disclaimer label. Before reviewing the ads, some participants were asked to read one of three stories that discussed photo manipulation, unrealistic body images, or news unrelated to these issues. After reading the assigned article, participants were shown various fashion magazines either without labels or with digital alteration disclaimers.  

The results showed that body dissatisfaction increased among those who’d seen magazines with or without disclaimer labels and among all the participants regardless of the articles they’d been assigned. 

So, back to the drawing boards? What’s clear is that more research is needed into the other methods for reducing the harm caused by the flood of body perfect imagery. Because it seems unlikely these images are going to disappear from our ever more body-conscious digital world.

This post was written by Marist Poll Media Team student Emily Frey.