Exposure to Male Models in Advertisements Leads to a Decrease in Men's Body Satisfaction

By Baird, Amy L.; Grieve, Frederick G. | North American Journal of Psychology, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Exposure to Male Models in Advertisements Leads to a Decrease in Men's Body Satisfaction


Baird, Amy L., Grieve, Frederick G., North American Journal of Psychology


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. …

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