Impact of Exposure to Images of the Idealised Physique on Body Satisfaction, Dieting Intentions and Mood in Men.

2019-06-25 03:58:33 | BioPortfolio


Every day, people are exposed to huge amounts of media. Research has explored the impact of viewing traditional media and advertising (such as television and magazines) on how a person thinks and feels about their body (body satisfaction). However, less is known about the impact of exposure to social media on body satisfaction. It is important to consider this now, given the rise in social media use.

The rise in social media use has made it easier for people to share images of an 'ideal' body, which for men is high muscularity and low body fat. Alongside this rise in the ideal body being shared on social media, there is a rise in male eating disorders. Research has already demonstrated that showing images of the 'ideal' body decreases body satisfaction. However, there has been little research in men and this research uses media from magazines.

The present study will update research by using images taken from Instagram and by recruiting male participants. Participants will be asked to take part in an online survey (shared on social media) which measures initial mood, body satisfaction, self-esteem and diet and exercise intentions. It will then show participants images of men with different physiques (either muscular, overweight, slender or control images of landscapes). The measures will then be repeated to see if viewing the images had any impact


The present study will seek to replicate findings of previous studies by exposing men to images of the idealised male physique and demonstrating increased body dissatisfaction and negative affect. However, given the rise of social media and the suggestion that social media platforms should be investigated independently, the present study aims to update literature by using images from Instagram rather than traditional forms of media. Instagram was chosen based on the suggestion that this social media platform may be the most detrimental to body image concerns because of its sole focus on photo activity and hence the elevated opportunity for social comparison. Additionally, male participants were chosen because to the author's knowledge, the experimental studies which have exposed participants to images taken from Instagram have only recruited women.

This study also builds upon previous findings that exposure impacts upon eating disorder and muscle dysmorphia symptomatology, by ensuring that the measures used to investigate these constructs are more relevant and more valid in men. This is achieved by measuring men's intentions to modify their diet and exercise regime to increase muscularity. Dieting and exercise intentions are measured, given the limitations in directly monitoring diet and exercise through diaries and according to the theory of planned behaviour, intentions strongly predicts actual behaviour. Pre and post exposure scores are used to investigate whether exposure has an impact on these outcomes.

Moderating factors such as gym use, pre-existing body and muscle dissatisfaction and social media use are controlled for in hope of demonstrating larger effect sizes. The reason for this is because the above research suggests that those using social media more often, those not attending the gym and those with pre-existing body or muscle dissatisfaction are more at risk of body dissatisfaction and other negative effects following exposure to images of the idealised physique.

This study also builds upon research which has provided evidence for the processes underlying the relationship between exposure to idealised images and body dissatisfaction. Research suggests that social comparison is a mediating factor, however this research either draws upon traditional media rather than social media to source images or the research only utilises female participants. Therefore, this study combines the use of images taken from Instagram with the recruitment of male participants. Additionally, in the hope of providing stronger evidence for underlying processes, social comparison is measured directly (instead of being inferred). Given the suggestion that people are more likely to socially compare themselves to peers rather than models or celebrities, images used in exposure did not include models or celebrities.

Finally, this study will learn from limitations of other studies by dividing their 'average' condition into two (skinny and overweight) in addition to maintaining a muscular and control group. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the role of upward and downward social comparisons to support the social comparison theory as an explanation of the effect.

The study utilises an experimental design as there is sufficient literature to generate hypotheses to be tested. Additionally, an experimental design is a robust and controlled method of capturing the acute effects of manipulating an independent variable.

The study adopts a between subjects design with four conditions. Each participant will complete one of four online questionnaires on SurveyMonkey. The four questionnaires are identical except for the images contained within them, hence the independent variable is image type. Each questionnaire will contain 15 images of either the idealised physique (muscular, lean and low body fat), overweight physique, skinny physique or landscapes (control images). These images will be selected from a pool of images by an independent panel in the target age range in the initial stage of the study.

Study Design


Body Image


Exposure to images


United Kingdom




University of Leeds

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2019-06-25T03:58:33-0400

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