Dubious Study Finds Male Six-pack Imagery Overrated

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Photo: Calvin Klein, iStockphoto

In a new survey found that pictures of slender or slightly chubby men were no less appealing than muscular men with six-packs. The findings suggest that cologne or denim brands, for example, can launch successful ad campaigns with more common male body types.

In the Queensland University study, more than 600 students in their late teens viewed mock ads for jeans, skin-care products, and cologne with both muscular and average-looking men, and found the ads with normal body types no less effective than those with washboard abs. The guys surveyed liked the ads with no models in them the best.


Some participants in the University of Queensland study ''may have attributed the models' muscularity to vanity or homosexuality, characteristics which they may have found unpleasant or discomforting'', Ms Diedrichs wrote in the journal Body Image.

''The average-size male models [may have seemed] less concerned with their appearance.''

Sure, vanity is unattractive, but in person, not in a still photograph when you can't see someone checking out their triceps in sidewalk windows every twenty paces. That's the beauty of so many ads — the male models can't talk to you.

We're not so sure about this study, and not only because we love looking at six- (or eight-) pack ads. Study author Phillippa Diedrichs found in 2008 that ads with plus-size lady models were just as effective product-sellers as those with thin models. But a recent University of Arizona study found that plus-size models in ads seemed unlikely to sell as much product as straight-size models. For every study that says one thing, there is another that says the opposite.

Six-pack punch overrated as other male body types muscle in [Sydney Morning Herald]