Body Image and Voluntary Gaze Behaviors towards Physique-Salient Images

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 4;18(5):2549. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18052549.


The purpose of this study was to explore body image correlates of voluntary consumption of physique-salient media. A secondary aim was to assess changes in affect following media consumption. Young adult men (n = 47; mean age = 20.2 years) and women (n = 87; mean age = 19.5 years) were discretely exposed to images of same-sex models with idealized- and average-physiques while completing an irrelevant computer task. Voluntary gaze at the images was covertly recorded via hidden cameras. Participants also completed measures of affect before and after the computer task. Measures of body-related envy, body appreciation, and self-perceptions of attractiveness, thinness, and physical strength were completed. Men and women did not differ in how often nor for how long they looked at the images overall, but body image variables were differentially associated with their voluntary gaze behaviors. For men, higher body-related envy and lower body appreciation were correlated with more looks at the average-physique model. Although women reported higher body-related envy than men, envy and body appreciation were not significant correlates of gaze behaviors for women. Both men and women experienced a general affective decrease over time, but only for men was the change in negative affect associated with their time spent looking at the ideal-physique image. Overall, these findings suggest that body-related envy and body appreciation influence how men choose to consume physique-salient media, and that media consumption may have negative consequences for post-exposure affect. Body image factors appear to be more strongly associated with behavior in men, perhaps because men are generally less often exposed to physique-salient media and, in particular, to average-physique images.

Keywords: affect; body appreciation; body envy; media; physical self-perceptions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Thinness
  • Young Adult