Sign up

Exposure to male models in advertisements leads to a decrease in men's body satisfaction.
Men fashion models (Psychological aspects)
Body image
Baird, Amy L.
Grieve, Frederick G.
Pub Date:
Name: North American Journal of Psychology Publisher: North American Journal of Psychology Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2006 North American Journal of Psychology ISSN: 1527-7143
Date: March-April, 2006 Source Volume: 8 Source Issue: 1
Product Code: 7310100 Consumer Advertising NAICS Code: 5418 Advertising and Related Services SIC Code: 7310 Advertising
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:
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 discussed.

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 only products.


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 dissatisfaction.


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 men-oriented materials.

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.


Brownell, K. D., & Rodin J. (1994). The dieting maelstrom: Is it possible and advisable to lose weight? American Psychologist, 49, 781-791.

Cash, T. F., Ancis, J. R., & Strachan, M. D. (1997). Gender attitudes, feminist identity, and body images among college women. Sex Roles, 36, 434-444.

Choate, L. H. (2005). Toward a theoretical model of women's body image resilience. Journal of Counseling and Development, 83, 320-330.

Crandall, C. S. (1994). Prejudice against fat people: Ideology and self-interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 882-894.

Drewnoski, A., & Yee, K. K. (1987). Men and body image: Are males satisfied with their body weight? Psychosomatic Medicine, 49, 626-634.

Fairburn, C. G., & Brownell, K. D. (2002). Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook (Second Edition). New York: Guilford.

Field, A. E., Cheung, L., Wolf, A. M., Herzog, D. B., Gortmaker, S. L., & Colditz, G. A. (1999). Exposure to the mass media and weight concerns among girls. Pediatrics, 103, 660.

Grieve, F. G. (2005, November). Proposing an etiological model for muscle dysmorphia. Poster presented at the annual convention of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapists, Washington, D.C.

Lorenzen, L. A., Grieve, F. G., & Thomas, A. (2004). Exposure to muscular male models decreases men's body satisfaction. Sex Roles, 51, 743-306.

Lynch, S. M., & Zellner, D. A. (1999). Figure preferences in two generations of men: The use of figure drawings illustrating differences in muscle mass. Sex Roles, 40, 833-843.

Morry, M. M., & Staska, S. L. (2001). Magazine exposure: Internalization, self-objectification, eating attitudes, and body satisfaction in male and female university students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 33, 269-279.

Olivardia, R. (2001). Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the largest of them all? The features and phenomenology of muscle dysmorphia. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 9, 254-259.

Pope, H. G., Gruber, A. J., Mangweth, B., Bureau, B., deCol, C., Jouvent, R., & Hudson, J. I. (2000). Body image perception among men in three countries. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 1297-1301.

Pope, H. G., Olivardia, R., Boroweicke, J. J., & Cohane, G. H. (2001). The growing commercial value of the male body: A longitudinal survey of advertising in women's magazines. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 70, 189-192.

Richins, M. L. (1991). Social comparison and the idealized images of advertising. Journal of Consumer Research, 18, 71-73.

Stice, E. (2002). Risk and maintenance factors for eating pathology: A metanalytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 825-848.

Vartanian, L. R., Giant, C. L., & Passino, R. M. (2001). "Ally McBeal vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger": Comparing mass media, interpersonal feedback and gender as predictors of satisfaction with body thinness and muscularity. Social Behavior & Personality, 29, 711-723.

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

North American Journal of Psychology, 2006, Vol. 8, No. 1, 115-122. @NAJP

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
with Products

                  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
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.