Barbie's boyfriend proves man's ideal

April 4, 1997

As the British Psychological Society meets this week, THES reporters review latest research

The constant parade of supermodels throughout the media has led to what psychologists have dubbed the "Barbie doll syndrome" among ordinary women, who become less satisfied with their own bodies in comparison.

But there are signs that men could be falling victim to the "Ken doll syndrome", according to research by Anouska Halstead, a final-year psychology student at Dundee University.

Ms Halstead enlisted 83 male students aged between 18 and who she divided into three groups. The first group was shown photographs of male models from men's magazines such as GQ, Loaded and Men's Health, who represented the "lean, muscular ideal". The second group was shown photographs of averagely attractive models, while the third group saw no photographs.

They then completed questionnaires which revealed that the men who had seen the "muscular ideal" were more dissatisfied with their own body shape than the men who had seen the averagely attractive photographs.

But Ms Halstead found her research skewed by the control group, who had seen no photographs. They were as dissatisfied with their body shape as the group which had seen the ideal photographs, but did not feel there was as great a gap between the ideal body and their own.

Because they had no images with which to compare themselves, they may have been revealing past concerns about their bodies rather than present feelings, Ms Halstead speculates.

"I can't interpret whether there's a Ken doll syndrome, or whether there's an increase in body satisfaction when men see average non-ideal models," she says.

She hopes to go on to postgraduate work next session and carry out a redesigned project in which all the men would rate themselves before and after seeing photographs.

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