[ Back ]


Whether an idealized advertising model fosters product evaluation depends on the product and on how malleable people conceive their body shape

Author Silvan BURRI
Director of thesis Herr Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dirk Morschett
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

Consider the following: A young man (woman) is walking down the street. On the left, he (she) discovers an advertisement which displays an idealized male (female) model. Placed centrally in the advertisement, the model is smiling in his (her) underwear at the passerby. The model is muscular (ultrathin).

Repeatedly faced with similar pictures, consumers may perceive the way they rate their body shape (i.e., their current body shape) is worse than the way they desire to look like (i.e., their desired body shape) resulting in a body shape-related self-discrepancy (cf. Cafri et al., 2005; Groesz et al., 2002; Higgins, 1987; Richins, 1991). The desired body shape does not necessarily describe a perfectly formed body like that of a fashion model. Rather, it is the body shape a consumer tries to approach. For instance, someone obese would like to slacken off even if she will still be a little chubby. A difference between the desired and the current body shape produces an awkward feeling which motivates consumers to reduce this self-discrepancy (Freund, Hennecke, & Mustafic, 2012; Higgins, 1987). Hence, we aim at examining the conditions under which idealized models ameliorate product evaluation. Moreover, we attempt to provide how brands cure consumers’ negative body perceptions. Body perceptions summarize the emotional, attitudinal, cognitive, and behavioral reactions of consumers to their body (Cash, Fleming, Alindogan, Steadman, & Whitehead, 2002; Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015). These reactions are mainly driven by a self-discrepancy (Altabe & Thompson, 1996; Jung et al., 2001; Strauman & Glenberg, 1994; Strauman et al., 1991). In a similar vein, we aim to explore whether campaigns can contribute to preventing consumers from negative body perceptions. We intend to investigate these research questions in at least one correlational and eight experimental studies across online and field settings as well as across different samples.

Building on self-discrepancy theory and on research about implicit theories (Burnette, 2010; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Park & John, 2010, 2014), we suggest the following: After confronted versus not confronted with a body shape-related self-discrepancy, the stronger consumers conceive their body shape as malleable (i.e., incremental theory of body shape) compared to stable (i.e., entity theory of body shape), the more positively they judge a direct resolution product. A direct resolution product supports consumers to change a personal attribute through learning and/or financial, physical, or psychic effort (Kim & Gal, 2014; Mandel, Rucker, Levav, & Galinsky, 2017; Park & Maner, 2009; Schouten, 1991). Thereby, the consumers’ motive is to really develop oneself as a person. In the context of body shape, a direct resolution product helps consumers to actually improve their body shape. However, after confronted versus not confronted with a body shape-related self-discrepancy, the stronger consumers conceive their body shape as stable compared to malleable, the more positively they judge a symbolic self-completion product. A symbolic self-completion product signals to oneself or to others that a personal attribute is superior to its actual state (Hoegg, Scott, Morales, & Dahl, 2014; Mandel et al., 2017; Willer, Rogalin, Conlon, & Wojnowicz, 2013). Thereby, the consumers’ motive is to visibly alter the attribute without really changing it objectively. In the context of body shape, a symbolic self-completion product demonstrates a thinner or more muscular body shape than it current is. Moreover, dealing with such a product cures entity theory consumers’ negative body perceptions, whereas a stronger tendency toward an incremental theory prevents from negative body perceptions.

Status beginning
Administrative delay for the defence