Research has focused on the effect that the ideal female body portrayed in the media can have on a woman’s own body image. However, little research has addressed what effect men experience when viewing ideal male body images. A new study, conducted by researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, focused solely on that issue. “Although previous studies have primarily focused on women, men have become of increasing interest in this line of research because contemporary media places a growing emphasis on the ‘muscular ideal’ for male bodies,” said the team. “Masculinity is associated with dominance and power, and having a muscular physique is seen as a reﬂection of these characteristics.” Just like women, men can experience many negative effects from poor body image. “High body dissatisfaction can have several harmful consequences for men,” said the researchers. “These include eating pathology, depression, and the use of excessive weight-loss strategies.”
The 50 male Dutch college students enrolled for the study were instructed to rate their body dissatisfaction using the Body Areas Satisfaction Subscale and the Body Esteem Scale, after viewing images of ideal and neutral male bodies. The researchers measured eye movement and the amount of time each participant dwelled on specific body parts, particularly the abdomen and chest. Surprisingly, the results revealed that focusing on ideal male images had no negative effect on the men. In fact, the opposite occurred. They said, “Applying this to our results, men who allocated a large amount of visual attention to the abdomen, and who thus may have been preoccupied with changing their body to increase their masculinity may have adopted a self-improvement motive of social comparison. As a consequence, when exposed to the idealized commercials, they were neutrally or even somewhat positively affected by these images, because they focused on ways to improve their body to achieve the ideal depicted in the commercials.”
Nikkelen, S. W. C., Anschutz, D. J., Ha, T., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2011, August 8). Influence of Visual Attention on Male Body Dissatisfaction After Idealized Media Exposure. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024942
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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