Social Comparison and the Beauty of Advertising Models: the Role of Motives For Comparison

Mary C. Martin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Patricia F. Kennedy, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
ABSTRACT - Social comparison theory itself has enabled marketers to understand better several types of marketing phenomenon, including comparing one's physical attractiveness to advertising models (Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Richins 1991), comparison of material possessions (Richins 1992), and consumer sensitivity to social comparison information (Bearden and Rose 1990). One aspect of the theory that has yet to be systematically studied is the motive for comparison. As such, this study examines the role of motives in social comparison. The marketing studies cited have assumed the motive for comparison to be self-evaluation, as originally proposed by Festinger (1954). However, three motives have been identified in the social psychology literature: self-evaluation, self-improvement, and self-enhancement.
[ to cite ]:
Mary C. Martin and Patricia F. Kennedy (1994) ,"Social Comparison and the Beauty of Advertising Models: the Role of Motives For Comparison", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, eds. Chris T. Allen and Deborah Roedder John, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 365-371.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 21, 1994      Pages 365-371

SOCIAL COMPARISON AND THE BEAUTY OF ADVERTISING MODELS: THE ROLE OF MOTIVES FOR COMPARISON

Mary C. Martin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Patricia F. Kennedy, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ABSTRACT -

Social comparison theory itself has enabled marketers to understand better several types of marketing phenomenon, including comparing one's physical attractiveness to advertising models (Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Richins 1991), comparison of material possessions (Richins 1992), and consumer sensitivity to social comparison information (Bearden and Rose 1990). One aspect of the theory that has yet to be systematically studied is the motive for comparison. As such, this study examines the role of motives in social comparison. The marketing studies cited have assumed the motive for comparison to be self-evaluation, as originally proposed by Festinger (1954). However, three motives have been identified in the social psychology literature: self-evaluation, self-improvement, and self-enhancement.

After a general discussion of motives, the role of motives with respect to female adolescents comparing their physical attractiveness to that of models in ads is explored. Propositions are presented, highlighting when comparison to advertising models will occur and the differential effects on self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem that may occur when motives are taken into consideration.

A study was conducted to determine underlying motives in female adolescents when they compare their physical attractiveness to that of models in ads. The results indicate that both self-evaluation and self-improvement as motives for comparison to advertising models exist in female adolescents, as well as in combination with each other. The study also reveals specific methods suggested for self-improvement, the frequency with which respondents indicated that they were able to discount the beauty of advertising models, and the frequency with which female adolescents aspire to be models. Future research, because these motives were found to exist, should address the propositions presented to determine whether differential effects on self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem occur, depending on the predominating motive at the time of comparison.

Social comparison theory has been revitalized in recent years in both psychology (see Goethals 1986) and marketing (e.g. Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Bearden and Rose 1990; Richins 1991, 1992). In marketing, the theory has been used in investigating several phenomenon, including comparing one's physical attractiveness to advertising models (Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Richins 1991), comparison of material possessions (Richins 1992), and consumer sensitivity to social comparison information (Bearden and Rose 1990). While the theory itself has enabled marketers to understand better these marketing phenomena, one aspect of the theory that has yet to be systematically studied is the motive for comparison. The marketing studies cited have assumed the motive for comparison to be self-evaluation, as originally proposed by Festinger (1954). However, Wood (1989) showed that social comparison may occur for other reasons, including self-improvement or self-enhancement. The purposes of this study are, therefore, to 1) present an overview of the motives for social comparison; 2) present propositions concerning the role of motives in the context of comparison of physical attractiveness to advertising models by female preadolescents and adolescents; and 3) present the results of a study designed to measure the types of motives that exist when female preadolescents and adolescents compare their physical attractiveness to that of models in ads.

COMPARISON MOTIVES

Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory can be summarized in three fundamental propositions:

1. People have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities.

2. In the absence of "objective" bases for comparison, this need can be satisfied by "social" comparison with other people.

3. Such social comparisons will, when possible, be made with similar others.

Festinger (1954) proposed accurate self-evaluation as the purpose of social comparison. Self-evaluation can be defined as the judgment of value, worth, or appropriateness of one's abilities, opinions, and personal traits.

However, Festinger (1954) considered self-enhancement as a comparison motive briefly in his original theory by specifying an ego-enhancement function termed a "unidirectional drive upward." Self-enhancement is defined as an an individual's biased attempts to maintain positive views of him/herself to protect or enhance self-esteem. Thornton and Arrowood (1966), Hakmiller (1966), and Wheeler (1966) found support for the existence of a unidirectional drive upward, a self-enhancement motive, and comparison to others who are dissimilar (i.e. those of superior status) with respect to personality traits. To determine what motives are in existence, studies have generally employed rank-order paradigms. For example, Thornton and Arrowood (1966) employed a rank-order paradigm in which subjects were administered a bogus personality test described as measuring either a positive or negative trait. The subjects received a bogus score on the personality test and then indicated which score in the rank ordering they wished to see. The authors interpreted the results in terms of self-evaluation and self-enhancement as motives for comparison to others.

Social psychologists have shown that social comparison may also occur for reasons of self-improvement (see Wood 1989). Self-improvement is defined as an individual's attempts to learn how to improve or to be inspired to improve a particular attribute. Despite the importance of self-improvement demonstrated in research on achievement motivation (Atkinson and Raynor 1974) and observational learning (Bandura 1986), and in the popularity of "how-to" books, few studies have examined the role of self-improvement in social comparison.

In summary, three motives found to exist in social comparison processes include:

1. Self-evaluation C an individual's judgment of value, worth, or appropriateness of his/her abilities, opinions, and personal traits.

2. Self-enhancement C an individual's biased attempts to maintain positive views of him/herself to protect or enhance self-esteem.

3. Self-improvement C an individual's attempts to learn how to improve or to be inspired to improve a particular attribute.

Given that these motives exist, what role do they play in social comparison processes? An individual's motive for social comparison will influence the comparison process by determining whom one will select for comparison. Whom one selects for comparison, in turn, determines the type of comparison taking placeCupward, downward, or similar. For example, all three motives may be served when upward comparisons are made. Upward comparisons occur when one makes comparisons with others who are superior or better off in some way. Thus, self-evaluation is served when one evaluates his/herself against a higher standard. Self-improvement is served when one learns from a superior other. Finally, if one assumes similarity on surrounding dimensions (those involved in comparisons but not the focal dimension under evaluation), the upward comparison may be self-enhancing (Wood 1989). Conversely, downward comparisons occur when one makes comparisons with others who are inferior or less fortunate than oneself. All three motives may be served by downward comparisons, but they most commonly occur for the purpose of self-enhancement. That is, an individual's biased attempts to maintain positive views of him/herself to protect or enhance self-esteem are most commonly achieved by comparing to inferior others. Similar comparisons occur when one makes comparisons with others who are similar on the attribute under question or surrounding attributes. Again, all three motives may be served by similar comparisons, but they most commonly occur for the purpose of self-evaluation. Further, a combination of motives may be in operation at one time. For example, self-evaluative comparisons may ultimately lead to self-improvement (Wood 1989).

Self-enhancement may also occur by avoiding social comparison. For example, Brickman and Bulman (1977) found that at times people do appear to avoid social comparison deliberately. Avoidance of social comparison will occur when one believes that his or her ability is particularly low or if he or she feels threatened (Friend and Gilbert 1973; Gastorf et al. 1978; Pyszczynski, Greenberg, and LaPrelle 1985; Samuel 1973; Smith and Insko 1987), and will occur even in the presence of comparisons "forced" upon one from the environment (Martin 1986). Avoidance of upward comparisons serves to preserve one's self-esteem (Wood 1989).

MOTIVES FOR COMPARISON AND ADVERTISING MODELS

Studies have found that female preadolescents, adolescents, and college students do compare their physical attractiveness with that of models in ads (Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Richins 1991). While these studies have assumed that the motive for comparison was self-evaluation, it is likely that comparison to advertising models may serve any one of the three motivesCself-evaluation, self-improvement, or self-enhancementCdepending upon which predominates at the time of comparison.

In the context of advertising, given that advertising models represent an ideal (perhaps unrealistic) image of beauty, the type of comparison that generally occurs will be upward. That is, female preadolescents and adolescents will generally consider advertising models to be superior in terms of physical attractiveness. Again, any one of the three motives can be served through upward comparisons. However, it is likely that upward comparisons to models in ads by female preadolescents and adolescents will generally not be self-enhancing because similarity on surrounding dimensions, such as age (i.e. most models appear to be in their twenties) or context (e.g. the model is not a schoolmate), will not be perceived to exist. Thus, when self-enhancement predominates as the motive for comparison, female preadolescents and adolescents will most likely avoid upward comparisons to advertising models in an attempt to preserve self-esteem. Therefore, the first proposition is suggested.

P1: When self-evaluation or self-improvement predominates as the motive for comparison, female preadolescents and adolescents compare their level of physical attractiveness with that of models in ads; when self-enhancement predominates as the motive for comparison, female preadolescents and adolescents will avoid comparisons of physical attractiveness to models in ads.

THE RESULTS OF COMPARISON

Social comparison theory has central relevance for dimensions of the self-concept, particularly self-esteem. Comparisons on self-relevant dimensions appear to have special impact on one's self-esteem and feelings (Wood 1989). James's (1984) definition of self-esteem (one's successes divided by one's pretensions) highlights social comparison processes by suggesting that aspirations are often defined by comparison with others, often to the detriment of self-esteem. Also highlighting social comparison processes in self-evaluation and the formation of ego-identity in adolescence, Erikson (1968) wrote, "The individual judges himself in light of what he perceives to be the way others judge him in comparison to themselves and to a typology significant to them; while he judges their way of judging him in light of how he perceives himself in comparison to them and to types that have become relevant to him." The idea that social comparison affects self-esteem was even implicit in Festinger's (1954) original conception of social comparison theory.

Comparison with advertising models may result in changes in self-perceptions of physical attractiveness (Martin and Kennedy 1993; Richins 1991). In turn, because the domain of physical attractiveness has consistently been found to be a significant factor in determining self-esteem, changes in self-perceptions of physical attractiveness should affect levels of self-esteem. The importance of this domain, unlike others, is unable to be discounted by female preadolescents and adolescents (Harter 1986, 1992; Rosenberg 1986). Therefore, if exposure to advertising with physically attractive models lowers self-perceptions of physical attractiveness, levels of self-esteem will also decrease. However, this study proposes that changes in self-perceptions and/or self-esteem may be influenced by the type of motive predominating at the time of comparison. Therefore, the subsequent discussion will focus on possible differential effects on self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem, depending on the predominating motive for comparison. In addition, because it was hypothesized that female preadolescents and adolescents will avoid comparisons to advertising models when self-enhancement predominates as the motive for comparison, the subsequent discussion will focus on the motives of self-improvement and self-evaluation.

SELF-EVALUATION AS A MOTIVE FOR COMPARISON

Information obtained from social comparison is not used for self-evaluation until the age of seven or eight, even though social comparison has been found to occur in children as early as preschool age (Ruble 1983). Further, the ability to make social comparisons develops through several stages or levels. An adolescent's cognitive abilities, subsequent self-evaluation of competence resulting from social comparison, and behavior effects tend to influence the process of social comparison (Ruble 1983). According to Renick and Harter (1989), social comparison information assumes increasingly greater importance in an effort to self-evaluate as levels of cognitive-developmental skills increase. For example, the authors found, in a study of learning disabled (LD) children in grades three through eight, that social comparison processes play an important role in self-evaluation and formation of their perceived academic competence. LD students perceive themselves as becoming less academically competent when they compare themselves to normally achieving students but maintain high self-evaluations of academic competence when they compare themselves to other LD students. Because adolescence is a period of transition, with self-perceptions on dimensions of the self generally unstable until late adolescence, the increasing importance placed on social comparison may reflect an effort to stabilize one's self-evaluation of a particular domain (for example, physical attractiveness).

Richins (1991) hypothesized that exposure to advertising with highly attractive models would temporarily lower female college students' self-perceptions of physical attractiveness. Ads from fashion magazines containing highly attractive models were used, with half of the ads showing a facial close-up and the other half showing full-body images of models in revealing sportswear. Richins compared the self-perceptions of physical attractiveness provided by a group of female college students exposed to ads with highly attractive models and those provided by a group exposed to ads with no models. No significant differences were found between the two groups and the hypothesis, therefore, was not supported. In a similar study, Martin and Kennedy (1993) found only partial support for a lowering of self-perceptions of physical attractiveness in female preadolescents and adolescents. Only in fourth graders were self-perceptions of physical attractiveness lowered after exposure to advertising.

The lack of support for these hypotheses may be related to the motive for comparison. While these studies assumed the motive for comparison was self-evaluation, if self-evaluation as the motive for comparison did not predominate at the time of comparison (rather, self-enhancement or self-improvement predominated), lowered self-perceptions by those exposed to idealized images would not necessarily occur. That is, if one was not attempting to judge the value or worth of their physical attractiveness, self-perceptions would not be affected. Conversely, if self-evaluation predominated at the time of comparison, comparisons should result in lowered self-perceptions. In turn, changes in self-perceptions of physical attractiveness will affect levels of self-esteem. Therefore, the second proposition is suggested. Congruent with Richins (1991) and Martin and Kennedy (1993), who employed an experimental procedure with one-time exposures to ads, the effects are hypothesized to be temporary.

P2: When self-evaluation predominates as the motive for comparison, comparisons to models in ads will temporarily lower female preadolescents' and adolescents' self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem.

SELF-IMPROVEMENT AS A MOTIVE FOR COMPARISON

Evidence suggests that self-improvement prompts upward comparisons with others. Feldman and Ruble (1977), for example, found that young children compare themselves to other children to learn how to perform tasks. However, self-improvement as a goal for comparison "may be demoralizing, because one is forced to face one's own inferiority" (Wood 1989, p. 239), depending upon whether an upward comparison is perceived as threatening or inspiring. If the target of comparison is perceived as a noncompetitor, then an upward comparison is considered inspiring, rather than threatening. For example, a junior tennis professional making upward comparisons to Martina Navratilova is likely to be inspired by her as opposed to perceiving her as a threat. However, comparison to a fellow junior player is likely to be threatening (Wood 1989). Thus, under competitive conditions, upward comparisons are perceived as threatening and tend to be avoided (Dakin and Arrowood 1981; Miller and Suls 1977; Knippenberg, Wilke, and deVries 1981). An advertising model is most likely to be perceived as a noncompetitor when self-improvement predominates as a goal for comparison. Again, motives may overlap to some degree, particularly self-evaluation and self-improvement, but if one's goal is merely to learn how to improve or to be inspired to improve his/her physical attractiveness (i.e. self-improvement), the individual's self-perceptions of physical attractiveness should not be affected (as in self-evaluation).

Therefore, when self-improvement is the predominating motive for comparison, self-perceptions of physical attractiveness should not be affected. This is due to the fact that competitive conditions do not exist, causing comparisons to advertising models to be considered inspiring rather than threatening. However, if one is inspired to improve her physical attractiveness, feelings of self-esteem may be enhanced in anticipation of an improvement. Therefore, the third proposition is suggested. Congruent with the second proposition, the effect on self-esteem is hypothesized to be temporary.

P3: When self-improvement predominates as the motive for comparison, comparisons to models in ads will not affect female preadolescents' and adolescents' self-perceptions of physical attractiveness, but will temporarily raise their self-esteem.

FEMALE PREADOLESCENTS' AND ADOLESCENTS' MOTIVES FOR COMPARISON TO ADVERTISING MODELS

Given the role that motives play in comparison, the next logical step is to determine which motives predominate when female preadolescents and adolescents compare their physical attractiveness to that of models in ads. As such, a Thematic Apperception Test sketch (TAT), a type of projective technique, was administered to a sample of female preadolescents and adolescents in grades four, eight, and twelve to determine the predominating motive when comparing oneself to advertising models. A total of 143 female preadolescents and adolescents completed the TAT, including 59 fourth graders (nine to ten years old), 51 eighth graders (thirteen to fifteen years old), and 33 twelfth graders (seventeen to eighteen years old).

The use of projective techniques in marketing research, particularly TATs, has been revitalized in recent years. For example, Rook (1985) used TATs to investigate the nature of young adults' personal grooming rituals. Most recently, Mick, DeMoss, and Faber (1992) used TATs to investigate the motivations and meanings of self-gifts. The projective hypothesis (Rappaport 1942) suggests that respondents, in generating imaginative stories about a pictorial stimuli, will reveal unconscious and other hidden aspects of their current concerns, motivations, perceptions of significant others, and view of the world. Thus, for the purposes of this study, the TAT represents an appealing technique in that it can reveal underlying motives. In fact, this story-telling technique was originally used by Henry Murray in his studies of motivation (see Chandler and Johnson 1991). Based on the results of pretests with TATs, which indicated that many responses strayed from the subject at hand, the projective sketch used for this study was followed by specific questions about the pictorial stimuli. The sketch and questions are shown in the Figure.

FIGURE

Each TAT was analyzed by two judges to identify the predominating motiveCeither self-evaluation, self-improvement, or self-enhancement. Inter-rater reliability was .78. Discrepancies in coding were resolved through discussion. The results of the coding are presented in Table 1.

Within each grade, both self-evaluation and self-improvement were common. In many cases, a combination of self-evaluation and self-improvement motives were operating at the same time. Responses indicative of self-enhancement would be characterized by statements such as, "After seeing the model, Susie feels better about the way she looks," or "Susie thinks she's prettier than the model." As such, neither judge found evidence of self-enhancement motives.

Responses that indicated self-evaluation as the predominating motive were further coded into positive or negative instances, with most responses being negative. Some responses that indicated self-evaluation as the predominating motive include:

"Susie wants to look like the model and is upset she doesn't. If she doesn't look like the model she is not beautiful. Susie is unhappy." (a twelfth grader; negative self-evaluation)

"Susie should be able to compare herself but not put herself down. Susie should realize that her body and physical features are just as good as a model's body. Susie is thinking about her future as a model." (a twelfth grader; positive self-evaluation)

"Susie started to compare herself to the model. She is thinking that the model is so much prettier than her. She started to list the things that model has better than her like her hair and her eyes. After she got done doing that, she felt really bad about herself." (an eighth grader; negative self-evaluation)

"There once was a girl named Susie. She was looking at this magazine that had a model she wanted to look like if she looked like a model, but she didn't so she was mad at herself." (a fourth grader; negative self-evaluation)

Several themes also emerged from the TATs. Shown in Table 2 are results in terms of specific methods suggested for improvement of physical attractiveness, the frequency with which respondents indicated that they are able to discount the beauty of advertising models, and frequency with which respondents indicated a desire to be a model. These results show that most of these methods (all except wearing make-up for the first time or changing the make-up currently worn) become more common as one gets older. Some of the responses indicating self-improvement as predominant and methods suggested are as follows:

"Susie's listening to her radio and reading the magazine. She's reading the magazine to find new images for herself or a new look. She finds a girl in there that she really wants to be. So she goes out and buys the product that the pretty girl is advertising in hopes that she'll end up looking just as good." (a twelfth grader)

"Susie bought a teen magazine at the grocery store. When she gets home she flips through the pages. Then she stops at a page where she sees a beautiful model. Lately she's been trying to find new ways to do her hair and wear her make-up and this photograph gives her a great idea. After staring and daydreaming at the picture she decides to go in her room and try to do her hair and make-up like the model in the picture." (an eighth grader)

"Susie notices how beautiful the model is! She wants to be just as beautiful. She reads about the model to find out how to be that pretty. It says first you have to have make-up. So she walks into the bathroom and takes some of her mom's make-up and puts in on. Then the book says to get on a pretty dress. So she went to her closet and got out her best dress. The last thing the book said was to look in a mirror. So she looked into the mirror and saw how pretty she looked." (a fourth grader)

TABLE 1

FEMALE PREADOLESCENTS' AND ADOLESCENTS' MOTIVES FOR COMPARISON

TABLE 2

ADDITIONAL RESULTS OF TAT CODING

Though questionable as a method of "improvement," dieting was mentioned most frequently by twelfth graders as a way to improve their physical attractiveness. References were made to eating disorders, including bulimia and anorexia, even by fourth graders. For example, responses include the following:

"Susie is paging through a magazine that has unusually and uncommon beautiful gals. She is looking at the magazine to get ideas for clothing, hoping she can find the right look. Susie is liking what clothes she sees but realizes that she could never look as great as the model and feels very depressed. She would like to buy the clothes so therefore becomes anorexic and dies." (a twelfth grader)

"Susie sits there thinking about how guilty she feels for eating so much. She wishes she could be just like all the girls in the magazine. Feeling very depressed she goes to the bathroom, sticks her finger down her throat and vomits all the food she has eaten." (a twelfth grader)

"She is turning the pages because Susie knows she won't be able to look like the model. But she is thinking how much she would like to look like the model. Next she will probably try to go on a diet to look like the model in the magazine." (an eighth grader)

"Susie asks her mother if she can go on a diet. Her mom says no so she starves herself to get skinny like the model. She thinks she's fatter than anybody else. One day she goes to the movies. She eats a lot of junk food so she goes home and tells her mom that she has to throw up. She goes to the bathroom and sticks her finger down her throat and makes herself throw up because she wants to be pretty and skinny." (a fourth grader)

Table 2 also shows the number of responses indicating that subjects are able to discount the beauty of advertising models. That is, some respondents indicated that being physically attractive is not important or that the beauty of advertising models is unrealistic. For example, some responses are as follows:

"Susie is comparing herself to something she can never be. Advertising promotes bulimia and anorexia and low self-esteem. Susie should feel good about herself for what she is, not how she looks. Some people are gorgeous, yes, but who wants a present that's all wrapping and no gift." (a twelfth grader)

"Well, Susie is comparing herself to this model. She is wishing she could look this way. She is looking at every feature of her. She is thinking how could I ever look that beautiful? It's impossible. So she just turns the page and forgets about what she saw." (an eighth grader)

"Susie thinks that she has to be as pretty as the model. But she doesn't because in her own special way she is special. It isn't the way she look, it's the way she feels inside is what matters." (a fourth grader)

The TATs were also coded as to whether a respondent indicated that she would like to choose modeling as a career. As Table 2 indicates, career aspirations to be a model were most common in fourth graders. For example, responses include:

"Susie is daydreaming about what she would be like if she was a model. Susie is reading the magazine to get some beauty tips. Susie is thinking she could be a model some day. Susie will become very beautiful and become a model." (a fourth grader)

"Susie is thinking she wants to be a model when she gets older but she will not be pretty enough so she can not be a model. Her mother is cooking and Susie tells her mother she wants to be a model but she thinks she is not pretty enough and her mother say she is. And when Susie got older she was a model." (a fourth grader)

Overall, the TAT proved to be successful in uncovering underlying motivations for comparison to advertising models. The greater number of TATs indicating no motive and lacking specificity in terms of methods suggested for self-improvement in fourth graders is most likely due to less ability to verbalize and present thoughts in a written form as compared to the eighth and twelfth graders. The analysis of the TATs also revealed the potential seriousness of female preadolescents and adolescents being preoccupied with physical attractiveness. Given the large proportion of negative self-evaluative responses, the relatively few number of respondents that discount the beauty of advertising models, and the references made to eating disorders, female preadolescents and adolescents may be at risk with respect to maintaining self-esteem, positive self-perceptions of physical attractiveness, and even proper levels of body weight needed to be physically healthy.

CONCLUSION

This study has examined the role of motives in social comparison. Specifically, the role of motives with respect to female preadolescents and adolescents comparing their physical attractiveness to that of models in ads was explored. Propositions were presented, highlighting when comparison to advertising models may occur and the differential effects on self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem that may occur when motives are taken into consideration.

The results of a study attempting to determine underlying motives were also presented. The results indicated that both self-evaluation and self-improvement as motives for comparison to advertising models exist in female preadolescents and adolescents. In addition, the study revealed specific methods suggested for self-improvement, the frequency with which respondents indicated that they were able to discount the beauty of advertising models, and the frequency with which female preadolescents and adolescents aspire to be models.

Given that both self-evaluation and self-improvement were shown to be motives in existence when physical attractiveness is compared to that of advertising models, future research should empirically test the propositions put forth. The question of whether self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and self-esteem are differentially affected depending on the predominating motive needs to be answered. An experimental procedure similar to that used by Martin and Kennedy (1993) or Richins (1991) could be used to investigate the differential short-term effects. However, a longitudinal study investigating the differential long-term effects would be desirable. In addition, the impact of advertising models needs to be assessed when both self-evaluation and self-improvement operate at the same time.

These issues have important public policy and managerial implications as well. First, if the attractiveness of advertising models adversely affects self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and/or self-esteem, what is the ethical responsibility of marketers? Further, if adverse effects do occur, should marketers be proactive by using less attractive or no models in advertising? Does the use of highly attractive models really "work?" For example, for those who have a self-improvement motive, the use of a highly attractive model may both increase the likelihood of purchase and have no detrimental effects on self-perceptions and/or self-esteem. On the other hand, the use of less attractive models in advertising may actually be advantageous. For example, the use of a less attractive model may give rise to a self-enhancement motive, thus increasing purchase intentions as well as self-perceptions and/or self-esteem. Finally, if differential effects on self-perceptions of physical attractiveness and/or self-esteem occur depending on the predominating motive at the time of comparison, perhaps preadolescents and adolescents can be taught how to view advertising (i.e. taught which motive to use) to prevent any adverse effects. These issues, it is believed, are important and deserve increased attention from academic researchers in marketing.

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