Does beautification technology use affect appearance anxiety?
Through beautification technology use (BTU), people can retouch and modify their virtual appearance. Studies of the effect of BTU on appearance anxiety (AA) report contradictory findings, and the influence mechanism remains unclear. This article applies a technology adoption perspective to further investigate. Study 1 employs an experimental method to explore whether BTU predicts an increase in state AA, using data from college students (N = 64). Study 2 (N = 251) and Study 3 (N = 491) then use quota sampling and online surveys of beautification technology users to test the curvilinear relationship between BTU and trait AA. Study 3 further explores the latent mechanisms. Hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: Beautification technology use predicts an increase in state appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 2: A U-shaped relationship exists between beautification technology use and trait appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 3: Beautification technology use has a positive effect on body surveillance. Hypothesis 4: Body surveillance has a positive effect on appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 5: Body surveillance plays a mediating role between beautification technology use and appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 7: Perceived control has a positive effect on appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 8: Perceived control plays a mediating role between beautification technology use and appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 9: There is a curvilinear (inverted U-shaped) relationship between BTU and positive social feedback, such that the positive relationship diminishes at high levels of BTU. Hypothesis 10: Positive social feedback has a negative effect on appearance anxiety. Hypothesis 11: Positive social feedback plays a mediating role between beautification technology use and appearance anxiety. The findings showed that: (1) BTU predicted an increase in state AA (supporting H1) and had a U-shaped effect on trait AA (supporting H2). (2) Underlying the U-shaped relationship were a series of inconsistent mediating effects: body surveillance was a positive mediator (supporting H3~5) whereas perceived control (intrinsic motivation) and positive social feedback (extrinsic motivation) were negative mediators (supporting H8, 11) . (3) In combination, the linear positive effect and two curvilinear negative effects with diminishing returns explain the U-shape, with AA lowest for relatively moderate BTU. The inconsistent mediation model provides interpretational clarity on why people depend on and indulge in BTU and how this influences AA.