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					Same-Gender Magazine Covers and Self-Esteem

Jenny Clark

March 26, 2010

        Abstract: The idealist body image portrayed by the media is thought to affect the self-

        esteem levels in both males and females. This study investigated whether the self-esteems

        of both male and female students at Quest University were affected by same-gender and

        opposite-gender models on magazine covers. However, neither looking at the same-

        gender models or the opposite-gender models affected the students’ self-esteem levels.

        This might be explained by the lack of exposure to magazines on a daily basis or the

        lacking need for social comparison amongst the students tested. Further research is

        suggested to determine if other magazines or media sources affect the self-esteem levels

        of Quest students.



                                               Introduction

        The media – it’s all around us. It is in our stores, on our streets, in our cars, and even in our

homes. We cannot escape it. Is it possible that all this exposure to media can influence our thoughts and

behaviors? According to many studies, psychologist would say it is possible.



Women and Magazines

        With magazines, many studies have focused on how the female models in them affect the self-

esteem of women. The models seen in magazines are usually women that fit the ideal “beauty image that

the public perceives as normal. This idealistic image is partly based on what the media has manipulated

the public into thinking is beauty. And with the advances in today’s technology, it is easy for the media to

manipulate the images we see with airbrushing and Photoshop to make the pictures look as closely to this

idealistic image. For women, this image consists of women who are tall, really thin, big breast, blonde

hair, and blue eyes; in other words, the physique of Barbie (Hatoum and Belle, 2004). However, for most
women, this physique is physically impossible to achieve due to genetics and weight regulations (Groesz,

et al, 2002). Nevertheless, exposure to these unrealistic images has been shown to lead to dissatisfaction

with appearance in adolescent girls and adult women and has correlated with female’s weight concerns,

reduced self-esteem, and eating disorders (Hatoum and Belle, 2004; Groesz, et al. 2002).

        Hawkins, et al (2004), conducted an experiment on whether the thin-ideal media images in

magazines impacted college women's body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, internalization of the thin-ideal,

and eating disorder symptoms. They had 74 women in their experimental conditioning group where each

subject was asked to view 40 photos of people in popular women magazines. They also had 71 women in

a control conditioning where each subject was asked to do the same process but with photos that did not

contain any people. They found that the women that looked at the photos with people had significant

differences in body dissatisfaction, negative mood, self esteem, internalization of the thin-ideal, and

higher levels of anorexia and bulimia related beliefs and perceptions.



Men and Magazines

        But women are not the only ones that fall for these unrealistic images. The self-esteem of men

have also been shown to decrease from seeing “attractive” male models in magazines (Hatoum and Belle,

2004; Jonason, et al. 2009). However, instead of the thin figures women pursue, men are brainwashed

into thinking that they should be more muscular. This idealistic look is thought to have evolved from

male action toys such as GI Joe and the characters from Star Wars (Hatoum and Belle, 2004).

        In Hatoum and Belle’s experiment in 2004, they tested whether males showed weight concerns,

self-esteem issues, or signs of eating disorder and if it might be correlated to the amount of muscular

magazines they read. Although the self-esteems of the men were relatively high to start out, the results

showed 64.3% of the men that weighed a normal weight wanted to gain weight, showing that men do in

fact have weight concerns and are more pressured to gain weight then to loose weight. Also, they found

that 29.2% of the men in the experiment had been on at least one diet in the last year, 68.5 % were

members of a gym, 30.3% had taken dietary supplements to build muscle, and 32.6% would skip a meal
if they had not exercised on a particular day. All of these signs might suggest that men suffer from eating

disorders as well. Furthermore, they saw that the men who skimmed through more male-directed

magazines had significantly more concerns about muscularity and fitness, used more body products, took

more dietary supplements, spent more time exercising, were more likely to be members of a gym, and

were more enthusiastic about muscularity than the men who rarely looked at that type of magazines.

        In addition, Hatoum and Belle tested whether the same men reacted in the same way if they saw

“attractive” images of women in magazines. According to Mazur (1986), males are more likely than

females to judge potential partners according to physical attractiveness (Hatoum and Belle, 2004).

According to the study, males that skim or read magazines with pictures of “attractive” women are more

likely to have higher expectations of women to fit that idea of attractiveness.



Hypotheses

        This experiment researches whether the self-esteem levels of Quest University students decrease

after seeing magazine covers of the same-gender. Also, this experiment tests whether the self-esteem

levels of the students change differently with opposite-gender magazine covers.

        There are two hypotheses for this experiment. One, females will have more of a decrease in self-

esteem levels after seeing the “attractive” same-gender magazine covers than the males. Two, the males’

self-esteem levels will increase after seeing the “attractive” opposite-gender magazine cover.

        In addition, I hypothesize that there will not be as much of a decrease in self-esteem for either sex

as other experiments have found. This is because at Quest, the students are somewhat in a bubble; It

seems like the students are not exposed to as much media or magazine covers as most people because we

do not have cable TV and magazines are not sold on campus. Since there is less accessibility to

magazines, the students might not have as much of an affect.



                                                  Methods

        The participants consisted of 30 Quest University Canada students: 15 females and 15 males. In
total, 7 were first years, 13 were second years, and 9 were third years. All the subjects were healthy and

were between the ages of 17-22. 50% of the subjects were Canadian, 30% were American, and 20% were

international. The participants had an average self-esteem of 3.27 (on a 1 -5 scale) and were exposed to an

average of 2.18 magazines daily. Each participant was chosen at random.

        All participants were tested individually in a vacant room to avoid any external influences. Each

participant was asked to fill out a background information questionnaire and sign a consent form before

beginning the experiment.

        For the experiment each subject was asked to rate their levels of self-esteem, happiness, and

sadness before and after seeing three different magazines. The first magazine they saw had an “attractive”

model of the same gender as the subject. The second magazine they saw had an “attractive” model of the

opposite gender as the subject. The third magazine they saw had a picture of architecture to be used as a

neutral. For the males, the magazine used for the “attractive” male-model was of a Men’s Health

magazine. For females, the “attractive” female-model magazine was of a Women’s Health magazine. And

for the neutral magazine, an issue of Architectural Digest magazine was used.

        The subjects used a 1-10 self-scaling method to evaluate their emotional levels (1 being the

lowest and 10 being the highest). After the subjects had successfully completed the experiment, they

were asked to fold up their questionnaires and place them through a slot in a “confidentiality” box to

ensure that the information they submitted was keep confidential and anonymous.

        At the end of the experiment, the experimenter offered Hershey Kisses as an appreciation gift for

participating in the experiment. The experiment then noted the amount of Kisses each participant took to

see if it correlated to their changes in self-esteem.



                                                    Results

        The average difference in self-esteem for the same-gender magazine was -0.8 for females and

-0.6 for males (on a 1-10 scale). The average difference in happiness for the same-gender magazine was
-0.93 for the females and 0.33 for males. The average difference in sadness for the same gender magazine

was 0.93 for females and -0.4 for males.

         The average difference in self-esteem for the opposite-gender magazine was -0.2 for females and

-0.6 for males. The average difference in happiness for the opposite-gender magazine was 0.33 for

females and -0.93 for males.




         The average difference in self-esteem for the neutral magazine was 0.0 for females and 0.3 for

males. The average difference in happiness for the neutral magazine was 0.53 for females and 0.8 for

males. The average difference in sadness for the

neutral magazine was -0.27 for females and -0.87 for

males.

         Two–way ANOVA tests were conducted on

the three different magazines. They showed no

significant differences in self-esteem, happiness, and

sadness with any of the three magazines.

         A two-way ANOVA test showed no

significant correlation between the average self-esteem of the participants and the amount of Hershey

Kisses they took (p=0.81).
                                                Discussion

        The results show that for neither the female or male students, there were no significant

differences in the self-esteem, happiness, or sadness, after seeing both the same-gender and opposite-

gender magazine covers.

        One of the reasons that might explain why Quest students do not have lower self-esteems after

looking at magazines is because they are not exposed to them as much as other university students. A

second reason might be that the students tested had learned how unrealistic the media portrays the normal

body type and therefore were not affected by the magazines. Both of these explanations have to do with

the social comparison theory. The social comparison theory is the idea that people evaluate their beliefs

and attitudes by comparing the reactions given by other people (Lilienfield, et al. 2009). Psychologist

suggest that the reason why the self-esteem levels of women decrease is from women comparing their

body image to the unrealistic images seen in magazines (Choi, et al. 2008; Groesz, et al., 2002). But

since Quest students are not exposed to magazines as much, and they might realize that the media’s

idealistic images are unrealistic, the social comparison theory might not apply to them.



Alternative Reasoning

        Although the results did not come out like hypothesized, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the

hypotheses are wrong. There are three reasons that might explain the results of the experiment.

        One, this was not as formal of an experiment as previous experiments conducted on this topic. In

the other experiments, the researchers had multiple way of detecting the levels of self-esteem in the

subjects, whereas in this experiment, it only asked one question about it for each magazine. At the same

time, self-measuring one’s own self-esteem can be pretty challenging, especially because some of the

subjects might not have fully understood the term itself. Also, other experiments asked for the subjects to

spend a greater amount of time looking at multiple photos to get accurate results. However, because there

was a time constraint with asking busy students to participate, this was not possible to do in the amount of

time given. Lastly, because this experiment was conducted through a fellow student of the subjects, the
subjects might not have taken the experiment as serious as they would if it was someone unfamiliar to

them.

        Secondly, there might have been some questions that were missing from the questionnaires. For

instance, basic questions about themselves were left out, such as asking for their height and weight and

asking about their satisfaction with their body. Also, more questions regarding the magazines might have

been helpful in getting accurate results. For example, some questions that might have helped could be

about how attractive they thought the models were and what they thought about the health headlines on

the magazine. Lastly, asking self-esteem questions that related to the subjects outside of the experiment

might have helped as well. For example, a self-esteem question might look like “Have you ever gone on a

diet or worried about your body image after reading through a magazine?”

        Thirdly, the Hawthorne Effect might have played a role in the subjects’ answers. The Hawthorne

effect is when the participants of a study behave differently because they know that they are being studied

(Lilienfield, et al. 2009). Since the student’s knew that they were being studied, they might have changed

their answers to hide their true reactions to the magazines. Within the Hawthorne Effect, demand

characteristics might have also skewed the answers of the subjects. Demand characteristics are cues the

participants pick up about the topic of the experiment that might encourage the participants to answer

based on what they think the hypotheses are. In this study, the students could have realized that the

experiment was on how magazines affect self-esteem and manipulated their answer to show whether they

agreed of disagreed with the hypothesis instead of answering based on their true reactions.

        Overall, this experiment shows that the self-esteems of both female and male Quest students were

not affected by looking at “attractive” models on magazine covers. However, further experimentation

with different magazines and different media sources is suggested to determine whether or not the media

has any affect on the self-esteems of Quest students.
References:


Choi, Y., Leshner, G, and Choi, J. Third-Person Effects of Idealized Body Image in Magazine

   Advertisements. American Behavioral Scientist 2008; 52; 147.


Groesz, L.M., Levine, M.P, and Murnen, S.K. (2002). The Effects of Experimental Presentation of Thin

   Media Images on Body Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic Review. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Hatoum, I.J. and Belle, D. Mags and Abs: Media Consumption and Bodily Concerns in Men. Sex Roles,

   Vol. 51, Nos. 7/8, October 2004.


Hawkins, N., Richards, P.S., Granley, H.M, Stein, D.M. The Impact of Exposure to the Thin-Ideal Media

   Images on Women. Taylor & Francis, Inc: Eating Disorders, 12:35-50, 2004.


Jonason, P.K., Krcmar, M., Sohn, S. Male Body Image: The Role of Muscle Magazine Exposure, Body

   Mass Index, and Social Comparison in Men’s Body Satisfaction. Society of Personality Research,

   Inc.: Social Behavior and Personality, 2009, 37(5), 627-630.


Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S. J., Namy, L.L., & Woolf, N, J. (2009). Psychology: From Inquiry to

   Understanding. Toronto: Pearson.

				
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