Effects of the Muscular Ideal on Appearance-Related Attentional Biases in Men


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Abstract

Limited research has investigated appearance-related attentional biases in men. This study examined the effects of priming on attentional biases in men and whether the biases were associated with body image. The dot-probe task (DPT), a commonly used reaction time-based measure, was adapted to include images between each trial of the task to test the effects of these images on attentional biases for appearance-related word stimuli. Men (N = 60) completed body image questionnaires online and attended a laboratory session, completing either (a) an appearance-cued DPT, containing images representing the muscular ideal; (b) a neutral-cued DPT, containing images of forests; or (c) a DPT with time delay in place of an image. Attentional biases for positive- and negative-appearance words did not differ for men who completed the three DPT versions. However, for men who completed the appearance-cued DPT, attentional biases for positive-appearance words correlated with a range of state experiences, including greater levels of muscularity and appearance dissatisfaction and poorer confidence and mood. The results suggest that men may experience poorer body image outcomes by automatically attending to the positive attributes of media depictions of the muscular ideal.

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