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Durham e-Theses
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Male musculature preferences and manipulation of such
preferences in men, women, boys and girls

JACQUES, KATY,AMBER (2024) Male musculature preferences and manipulation of such
preferences in men, women, boys and girls.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Western media overemphasises and unrealistically portrays idealised bodies. The literature exploring how such images can alter body type preferences has focused almost exclusively on women and their preferences for the thin female body ideal, whilst equivalent work on men and male
muscularity has been neglected. In response to this, we ran nine studies which sought to address this gap in the literature, of which seven specifically explored the visual diet effects of high and/or low muscle male body exposure on one’s preferences for muscularity. Studies 1 and 2 examined whether viewing high (low) muscle mass male bodies could increase (decrease) preferences for muscularity in men and women, whether a man’s drive for muscularity could predict the strength of this effect, and whether ‘visual diet’ or ‘associative learning’ mechanisms best explained any changes in preferences. We found evidence for changes in musculature preferences in the direction of the prevalent image type, and concluded that the visual diet and associative learning hypotheses could both, to some extent, explain such shifts in musculature preferences. Study 3 was conducted in response to the criticism that existing body exposure work involves stimulus presentation that could lead to demand characteristics. Findings revealed musculature preference shifts could still be observed even when manipulation conditions were less obviously skewed towards a particular body type. Study 4 sought to replicate any musculature preference shifts observed in Studies 1-3, whilst also examining whether men’s pre-existing internalisation of cultural body ideals and perceived pressures to achieve such
ideals (as measured by the Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire; SATAQ-4) could moderate susceptibility to such effects. We found that viewing high (low) muscle mass male bodies increased (decreased) musculature preferences and that this was moderated by SATAQ-4 scores in men but not women. Studies 5, 6 and 7 were three overlapping studies involving 6-18-yearold boys and girls. Study 5 examined the age profiles of SATAQ-4 and Drive for Muscularity (DMS)scores. Study 6 tested whether children’s preferences for high/low muscularity images could be
manipulated via viewing biased selections of stimuli, and whether age, SATAQ-4 and/or DMS scores predicted susceptibility to such effects. Study 7 required participants to provide free-text responses regarding their perception of images of men high or low in muscularity. Findings revealed that age positively predicted SATAQ-4 scores (for boys and girls), and DMS scores (boys only) in Study 5, and, in Study 6, age positively predicted boy’s and girl’s baseline preferences for muscularity. Study 6 also revealed evidence of musculature preference shifts following body viewing, but there was an interaction with age and gender. Notably, it was only the older 15–18-year-old boys who showed
evidence of such effects when data was broken down by gender and age, with no such age effects present for the girls. Study 7 showed that across the different age groups boys and girls described high (low) muscle mass media figures in similar ways. For the final two studies, we used the dot probe paradigm (Study 8) and eye tracking (Study 9) to investigate a bias in visual attention towards high
(over low) muscle mass male bodies. We found both men and women showed such a bias in visual attention, and internalisation of cultural body ideals, pressures to achieve such ideals, and one’s drive for muscularity were found to predict this bias in attention. Additionally, Study 8 revealed evidence for significant musculature preference shifts following image viewing amongst those men who had
strongly internalised the muscular body ideal. Overall, the findings of this thesis have important implications as they indicate that preferences for male muscularity in men, women, boys and girls can, much like one’s preference for the thin body ideal in females, be affected by one’s visual diet.
The muscular male body ideal that dominates much of Western media may therefore be perpetuating, maintaining, and/or intensifying unrealistic standards of the male body in those who consume such media.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:musculature preferences; body image; manipulation of body preferences; visual diet effects
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Psychology, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Feb 2024 10:27

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