Viewing idealized body portrayals of men and women in advertising is known to have negative effects on men’s self-esteem and body dissatisfaction, but little research investigates these effects across race/ethnicity. Racial minorities tend to idealize larger bodies than Whites and so might respond differently to advertising influences. We investigated whether exposure to idealized portrayals of male and female bodies in TV advertisements has different effects on men of different race/ethnicity. Additionally, we investigated whether implicit methods reveal different results than self-reports. One hundred and sixty Asian, Hispanic, and White American male undergraduates from a university in California (USA) were randomly assigned to watch TV advertisements portraying thin women, muscular men, or watched no ads. Their implicit self-esteem was measured using the Implicit Association Test, and a questionnaire assessed explicit self-esteem, actual-ideal body discrepancy, and perception of weight-related health-risks. Exposure to portrayals of muscular men decreased actual-ideal body discrepancy in all men. Exposure to portrayals of thin women increased men’s implicit but not explicit self-esteem in Asian and Hispanic men only. Both these findings are consistent with a self-enhancing role of exposure to idealized male and female bodies in advertising, which is often referred to as a “fantasy effect”. This study provides evidence that media exposure interacts with culturally local body ideals and so can produce varying effects in different racial/ethnic groups. This result could have important implications for interventions.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 14, 2012
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