The amount of television we watch is likely to influence our idea of the "perfect" female body, the Press Association reports.
Researchers from Newcastle University found that the more television a person watches, the more likely they are to prefer a slimmer female physique.
The scientists worked with a group of people from rural Nicaragua to asses the effects of media exposure on body ideals.
They they grouped the participants according to their differing access of Western media, then asked them to rate images of different women.
The study found that the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) preferences were found in the village with the least media access, while those living in urban areas preferred thinner female bodies.
Co-leader on the research Dr Martin Tovee, a reader in visual cognition at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience, said: "Our study shows that television is having a significant impact on what people think is the ideal woman's body.
"Nicaragua provides a unique opportunity to study media effects as we were able to minimise variance in potential confounding factors and focus on the influence of visual media.
"The differences in television access allowed us to explore how media exposure affects the size and shape women aspire to be.
"Findings revealed that the more television exposure people receive, the thinner a female body women and men prefer – the amount of media access directly predicts body ideals.
"Overall these results strongly implicate television access in establishing risk factors for body image dissatisfaction."
The study, which is published in full in the British Journal of Psychology, was conducted on the remote Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, in two villages off the Pearl Lagoon Basin.
The villages were selected because their inhabitants have differing access to electricity and to the media, but share similar environmental and cultural constraints.
Co-leader Dr Lynda Boothroyd, senior lecturer in psychology at Durham University, said: "Internalisation of a thin ideal is a well-established risk factor for body dissatisfaction and eating disorders in the West.
"Our data strongly suggests that access to televisual media is itself a risk factor for holding thin body ideals, at least for female body shape, in a population who are only just gaining access to television."
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