Social Physique Anxiety and Muscularity
and Appearance Cognitions in College Men
Jeffrey J. Martin
Pamela Hodges Kulinna
Published online: 8 November 2006
Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006
Abstract The purpose of the current study was to examine
the ability of appearance related cognitions and muscularity
perceptions to predict social physique anxiety (SPA) in
male college students (N = 98). Descriptive results indicate
that participants experienced moderate SPA, and, in
general, had a positive set of body image cognitions.
Correlations reveal a large and significant relationship
between SPA and appearance evaluation. Multiple regres-
sion results indicate that (after controlling for percent body
fat and lean body mass) both appearance and muscularity
related cognitions account for 60% of the variance in SPA.
More specifically, based on the standardized beta weights,
appearance evaluation and positive attributes of muscularity
make the most significant contributions to predicting SPA.
Our findings suggest that the recent heightened attention to
the value of muscularity to young men should not cause
practitioners or researchers to overlook the value that men
place on global appearance.
Self-presentation theory suggests that people seek to
enhance the favorable impressions others formulate about
them and attempt to avoid unfavorable reactions (Leary,
1992). Self-presentation refers to the ways in which people
manage how they present themselves to others (Leary,
1992). Individuals who are ineffective in managing their
impressions may experience social anxiety (Leary, 1983).
Social physique anxiety (SPA), a specific type of body
image-related social anxiety, is experienced when people
anticipate that, or believe that, their bodies are being
devalued (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989). Because body
image is a generic “umbrella” term (Bane & McAuley,
1998; Hausenblas & Downs, 2001), it is important to
recognize that SPA reflects an affective body image-related
construct. Equally important, SPA is not isomorphic with
body image, as it reflects “people’s concerns with other’s
perceptions of their bodies” (Hart et al., 1989,p.95–96).
Most body image constructs reflect self-judgments.
Self-presentation theory has been advanced significantly
by the study of SPA in exercise settings. However, this
advancement has largely been limited to the study of
women (e.g., Eklund & Crawford, 1994). Leary and
colleagues (Leary, Tchividjian, & Kraxberger, 1994) call
for more research on self-presentation theory and men’s
body image has gone, with a few exceptions (e.g., Martin,
SPA is likely an important form of social anxiety in
exercise because the body is so critical and salient to
physical activity. Both Eklund and Crawford (1994) and
McAuley and Burman (1993) recognized the need to
Sex Roles (2006) 55:151–158
This article was based on the second author’s Masters Thesis
conducted under the guidance of the first author.
J. J. Martin (*)
Division of Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Studies,
Wayne State University,
266 Matthaei Building,
Detroit, MI 48202, USA
P. H. Kulinna
Department of Education,
Arizona State University at the Polytechnic Campus,
7001 E. Williams Field Rd. Bldg. 140,
Mesa, AZ 85212, USA