This study was designed to examine the effect of exposure to male
models in advertisements on men's body satisfaction. Participants
were 173 college males that were recruited from introductory psychology
courses. Participants were assessed using the Body Assessment (BA),
Magazine Advertisement Questionnaire (MAQ), and one of two sets of
magazine advertisements that consisted of either clothing or cologne
products, or those same products featured with a male model.
Participants who viewed advertisements with male models showed an
increase in body dissatisfaction, while those who viewed only products
demonstrated no change in body dissatisfaction. The importance of this
finding is that the body dissatisfaction experienced through exposure to
idealized images of men in the media is only the beginning of possible
outcomes such as anabolic steroid use, eating disorders, and muscle
dysmorphia. Limitations and suggestions for continued research are
It has been proposed for years that women have a normative
discontent with their body shape and, especially, weight (Brownell &
Rodin, 1994). Women generally want to lose between five and 10 pounds of
body weight to better approximate the social ideal (Cash, Ancis, &
Strachan, 1997). By approximating the social ideal, women raise their
self-esteem as well as their perceived value (Crandall, 1994).
Men, on the other hand, have long been thought to be free from
pressures to shape their bodies in a certain manner because they had
other avenues upon which to base their self-opinion (Crandall, 1994).
However, recently, the pressures on men to obtain and maintain a certain
body type have been increasing. The value of having a muscular body has
increased (Pope, Olivardia, Boroweicke, & Cohane, 2001). Men are
beginning to report being dissatisfied with their body appearance
(Drewnoski & Yee, 1987; Vartanian, Giant, & Passino, 2001) and
wanting to gain approximately 30 pounds in muscle mass (Pope et al.,
2000). The pressures toward this muscular body have increased the
prevalence rate, and the attention paid to, muscle dysmorphia, a
disorder in which individuals believe they are too small and work to
become larger (see Olivardia, 2001, for an explication of the diagnostic
criteria for muscle dysmorphia).
The internalization of the ideal body shape as presented in the
media is well accepted as a causal factor in the development of eating
disorders. (Stice, 2002). As muscle dysmorphia appears to be a male
version of an eating disorder (Grieve, 2005), the same pressures can be
expected to affect men as affect women. However, the pressure should be
toward developing a muscular frame rather than a thin frame.
When women are exposed to idealized images in the media, they
engage in social comparison, and their body satisfaction lowers (Choate,
2005; Richins, 1991). Advertisements in popular magazines have been
implicated in the promotion of the thin ideal (Morry & Staska,
2001). When women are continuously exposed to the thin ideal presented
in the media, they are likely to internalize the cultural ideal as the
standard against which to compare themselves. Many times, this
comparison finds their own bodies lacking (Choate, 2005). Richins (1991)
asked one group of women to rate magazine advertisements with thin
female models and asked another group of women to rate magazine
advertisements with just the products in them. Following the exposure
session, women were then asked to rate body satisfaction. Women who were
exposed to advertisements with thin female models were more dissatisfied
with their bodies than women who were exposed to advertisements with
only the products.
As male models in magazine advertisements have become more muscular
across time (Pope et al., 2001), it was expected that exposure to such
would engender the same type of social comparison as seen in women
exposed to thin female models. Further, Lorenzen, Grieve, and Thomas
(2004) exposed collegiate-aged men to photographs of muscular and
average men. They found that, following exposure, the participants who
viewed photographs of muscular men had a small, but significant,
decrease in body satisfaction.
The present study was designed to examine the effect of exposure to
muscular male models presented in actual magazine advertisements on
men's body satisfaction. Drawing on the work of Richins (1991) and
Lorenzen et al. (2004), it was hypothesized that men exposed to magazine
advertisements with muscular male models will have higher levels of body
dissatisfaction than men exposed to magazine advertisements containing
Participants and Design
Participants were 173 college males (M age = 19.62, SD = 2.33) with
the average educational level of a college sophomore (M education =
13.60 years, SD = 0.77). Racial composition was 84.4% Caucasian, 8.7%
African American, 3.5% Asian, and 1.7% each of Latino and other. The
design of the study was a 2 (type of advertisement: muscular vs. normal)
x 2 (time: pretest vs. posttest) mixed design. Type of advertisement was
a between-subjects variable while time was a within-subjects variable.
Advertisements. The stimulus materials were 16 advertisements,
eight that included male models with clothing and cologne products, and
eight that depicted only the products. The advertisements were collected
from popular men's magazines such as FHM, Maxim, and Sports
Illustrated. The race/ethnicity of the models displayed in the
advertisements included Caucasians, African Americans, and Latinos, with
an approximate age range of 18 to 30 years. The advertisements with male
models were chosen based on their high attractiveness, developed
muscularity, and highly visible upper body, with care to ensure that the
advertisements were equal in appearance. Advertisements in each
condition were matched so that the same presentation of products
(clothing or cologne) was followed for each set.
Demographics. Basic demographic data (age, race, and current
educational level) were assessed using a questionnaire.
Body Satisfaction. The Body Assessment (BA; Lorenzen et al., 2004)
is a 25-item survey that assesses participants' attitudes towards
various parts or aspects of their body. Appearance and body performance
are assessed in this survey. Items are scored on a 5-point scale ranging
from 1 (strongly positive) to 5 (strongly negative). The BA has been
shown to have good internal consistency, Cronbach's alpha = .94
(Lorenzen et al., 2004).
Advertisement Assessment. A 40-item questionnaire (the Magazine
Advertisement Questionnaire, MAQ) was created for this study to assess
different aspects of the magazine advertisements presented to the
participants. Questions were answered on a Likert-type scale ranging
from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 5 (Strongly Disagree). Participants responded
to five statements for each of the eight advertisements they viewed:
"I think this ad is highly informative," "I currently buy
products such as those featured in this ad.," "This ad
accurately represents the product," "I think this ad makes the
product more appealing to consumers," and "Because of this ad,
I would buy this product." This questionnaire was created as a
means to have participants focus on the advertisements being presented,
and data collected from the MAQ was not used in subsequent analyses.
Participants were recruited from several introduction to psychology
classes by offering extra credit. The administration of both sessions of
the experiment occurred in a classroom. After informed consent was
obtained from participants, they were instructed to complete the
demographics form and the BAS. After turning in their completed forms,
the participants began their second session. At the second session,
participants were randomly assigned to a condition and informed that
they would be viewing several different magazine advertisements, and
were to complete the MAQ for each of the advertisements. The magazine
advertisements were shown for approximately 30 seconds via a projector.
After completing the MAQ for all of the advertisements, participants
were again asked to complete the BAS. The entire process took
approximately 20 to 30 minutes to complete.
By using a 2 (Type of Picture: male models vs. products) x 2 (Time:
pre vs. post) mixed measures Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), results
showed that there was no significant main effect found for type of
picture, F (1,171) = .057, p = .43, [[eta].sup.2] = .004 or time, F
(1,171) = .058, p = .29, [[eta].sup.2] = .007. However, a significant
interaction was found between type of picture and time, F (1,171) =
.243, p = .030, [[eta].sup.2] = .027. As shown in Table 1, participants
viewing male models showed an increase in body dissatisfaction, while
those who viewed only products demonstrated no change in body
The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of
viewing male models in magazine advertisements on men's body
satisfaction. The results support the hypothesis that viewing male
models in advertisements decreases men's body satisfaction.
The results of the present study mirror those found by Lorenzen et
al. (2004), who found that men exposed to photographs of muscular men
had lower levels of body satisfaction following the exposure than prior
to exposure. Further, men exposed to photographs of muscular men had
lower levels of body satisfaction post viewing than did men exposed to
photographs of normal men. The present study offers more ecological
validity as it incorporated actual magazine advertisements rather than
photographs. The advertisements presented in the present study are those
that men encounter while reading magazines such as Maxim, FHM, and other
The present results also are similar to previous research on
women's body image. A number of studies (e.g., Field et al., 1999;
Morry & Staska, 2001; Richins, 1991, Vartanian et al., 2001) have
demonstrated a decrease in women's body satisfaction following
exposure to thin models in media advertisements. In fact, the present
results replicate the findings of Richins (1991), who exposed one group
of women to advertisements with thin models and one group of women to
advertisements with simply products. The women who viewed advertisements
with models rated their body satisfaction lower following the exposure
than women who viewed advertisements with only products. Thus, there is
strong support that media presentation of socially ideal body shapes
(thin for women and muscular for men) generally leads to an upward
comparison for most people. In other words, most people compare their
current body shapes with the ideal body shape and feel as though they
are lacking. Such a comparison often leads to feelings of
dissatisfaction (Choate, 2005).
Body dissatisfaction is implicated in the development of eating
disorders (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002) and been proposed as a factor
in the development of muscle dysmorphia (Grieve, 2005) in both men and
women. Therefore, the more men are dissatisfied with their bodies, the
greater their risk for developing these disorders.
However, the pressures on men to achieve a certain body shape
appear to be less than the ones women face. Men appear to have more and
varied avenues to increase social status than do women. Men can draw on
their employment, income, and vehicle to increase social status, while
women have only one avenue open to them: appearance (Crandall, 1994).
However, since the mid-1980s the commercial value of the male body has
increased (Pope et al., 2001), which has been accompanied by pressure to
attain a certain shape.
It must be noted that the effect sizes, as well as the differences,
are small. However, the exposure time was also very short. Men are
exposed to muscular models in magazine advertisements, on billboards, or
in television commercials for a longer duration than the exposure time
in the present study. Therefore, the total effect of muscular models on
men's body satisfaction is probably larger than what is indicated
by the results of this study.
There are other possible alternative explanations for the findings.
It is possible that the order of presentation of the advertisements
caused the effect, rather than social comparison. In other words, it is
possible that the last picture seen by the participants drove the actual
findings. While this could be the case, the advertisements were selected
to be representative of the prototypical advertisement featuring a male
model. There is no reason to expect that these advertisements differed
in any meaningful way, and, therefore, there should be no order effects.
Another possibility is that it is simply the presence of male models,
not muscular male models, that drives the findings. Again, this could be
the case; however, these results mirror those of Richins (1991), who
used similar methodology. It is likely that the similar results are due
to similar processes. Finally, it is possible that the attractiveness of
the models, rather than their muscularity, caused the participants to
have a decrease in body satisfaction. However, it seems unlikely that
attractiveness would affect people's perceptions of how much they
were satisfied with their chest, arms, legs, and overall muscle tone.
Another limitation to the present study is the lack of diversity
(including age, race, and ethnicity) in the sample size. The sample was
composed of primarily Caucasian men of college age. It is probable that
a more diverse sample would have provided different results. However,
the population that appears to be most affected by the pressures to
obtain a certain body shape is college-aged Caucasian males (Lynch &
Zellner, 1999). Thus, the results from the present study generalize to
the population to which it is most important.
In summary, the results of the present study indicate that men who
are exposed to muscular male models in magazine advertisements rate
their body satisfaction lower following exposure to the advertisements
than men who are exposed to advertisements without male models. While
this is a small effect, the time of presentation was short. Considering
the ubiquitous nature of advertisements, men will be exposed to a number
of like advertisements in a given day, and across their lifetimes. Thus,
the total effect on men's body satisfaction will probably be much
greater than what was found in this study.
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Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Frederick G. Grieve,
Dept. of Psychology, Western Kentucky U., 1906 College Heights Blvd.,
#21030, Bowling Green, KY 42103-1030. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
North American Journal of Psychology, 2006, Vol. 8, No. 1, 115-122.
Amy L. Baird
Frederick G. Grieve
Western Kentucky University
TABLE 1 Body Satisfaction Ratings (and standard deviations) from the
BA of Men who Viewed Ads with Male Models versus Those who Viewed Ads
Pre-Exposure Rating * Post-Exposure Rating *
Viewed Models 2.27 (0.07) 2.35 (0.07)
Viewed Products 2.24 (0.07) 2.22 (0.08)
* Note: Higher scores on the BA indicate higher levels of