THE DESIRE FOR MUSCULARITY AND BODY SIZE
ESTIMATION IN COLLEGE MALES
Gregory Edward Hofer
B.A. University of Colorado-Boulder, 2003
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Gregory Edward Hofer
has been approved
Hofer, Gregory Edward (M.A., Psychology)
The Desire for Muscularity and Body Size Estimation in College Males
Thesis directed by Professor Emeritus Rick Gardner
In the last 10 years, the literature on body image has grown to include a sizable
collection of research concerning muscularity and body image. Several studies
indicate that males wish to increase their muscularity, and muscle dysmorphia
refers to a condition where this desire reaches an obsessional level. Given the body
size distortions observed in other body image disorders such as anorexia nervosa,
the main goal of present study was to explore the relationship between the desire for
muscularity and body size estimation in 33 college males. The Drive for
Muscularity scale and the Bodybuilder Image Grid measured the desire for
muscularity in the present study. A computerized body image distortion program
using adaptive probit estimation (APE) measured the accuracy of body size
estimation. Specifically, the program measured the participants perceived body
size and their sensitivity to change in body size. It was hypothesized that a higher
desire for muscularity would be associated with a greater underestimation of body
size. Participants indicated the desire for a more muscular body on several DMS
items. On the BIG, the participants indicated the desire to gain an average of 10.42
pounds of muscle and have 5.56% less body fat. The participants did not
significantly underestimate body size, and body size estimation was not related to
the drive for muscularity, the desired muscle mass score on the BIG, or with the
desired fat mass score on the BIG. The participants sensitivity to change in body
size was not related to the drive for muscularity, the muscle mass desired by the
participants, or with the fat mass desired by the participants. The participants ages,
body mass indexes, and body fat percentages were recorded, and it was found that
age predicted perceived body size. The implications of the study are discussed and
ideas for future research are suggested.
This abstract accurately represents the contents of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
My thanks to my thesis committee chairperson, Rick Gardner, for his guidance and
the use of his Body Size Distortion program. I thank committee members Elizabeth
Allen and Eric Benotsch for their support and helpful input on this project. I wish to
thank Joe D. Wise, Jr., R.Ph, for the use of Wise Pharmacys bioimpedance analysis
machine and Denice Shook for the use of her digital camera and laptop computer.
This research was partially funded by a Council Awards for Graduate School
Research (CASGR) grant from the University of Colorado at Denver and Health
1.1 Research Background...................................................1
2. Present Study.........................................................26
3.2.1 The Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS)..............................28
3.2.2. The Bodybuilder Image Grid Scaled (BIG-S).......................29
3.2.3 Body Image Distortion Program......................................31
3.2.4 Demographic Information............................................32
A. The Bodybuilder Image Grid (BIG)...................................47
Figure 1.1 The best fit cumulative normal sigmoid function
for too wide judgments presented at four levels of distortion....22
Table 5.1 Drive For Muscularity Scale Item Means And Standard Deviations....37
1.1 Research Background
During the last decade, the literature on body image has grown to include a
sizable collection of research concerning muscularity and body image. This
research is focused largely on male populations, and several studies indicate that
males may desire more muscular bodies (e.g., Pope et al, 2000; Olivardia, Pope,
Hudson, 2000). Males dissatisfied with their bodies often desire to gain weight,
usually in the form of lean muscle weight (Olivardia et al., 2000; Drewnowski
and Yee, 1987). Pope et al. (2000) found that on average, college-aged males in
Austria, France, and the United States desired a body with approximately 28 more
pounds of muscle than their current body. Labre (2002) points out that the increase
in both health club memberships and the sale of nutritional supplements may
indicate a trend towards a more muscular body. Additionally, surveys by Cash
(1997) indicate over the past 25 years, males dissatisfaction with their chest area
has grown from 18% to 38%. This is important, considering that the chest and
upper body in general is viewed as an area of particular concern for males (Cafri
and Thompson, 2004 p.19).
An abundance of research documents the existence of a thin ideal for
females in Western cultures, the potential for consequent psychopathology
(especially eating disorders), and the role of the media in perpetuating the ideal
(e.g., Thompson & Tantleff, 1992, McCarthy, 1990). This research is augmented
with the more recent recognition that a particular body ideal is propagated for males
in Western societies, as well. However, in contrast to the female ideal, the ideal for
males is one of bulk and/or muscularity. The ideal male body resembles an
inverted triangle, with well-developed pectoral muscles, arms, and shoulders, and a
narrow waist (Morrison, Morrison, Hopkins & Rowan, 2004, p.30). This muscular
ideal is propagated in many forms of media. Leit, Pope, and Gray (2000) estimated
the fat-free mass index (FFMI) scores of Playgirl centerfold models. Fat-free mass
index (FFMI), described by Kouri, Pope, Katz, and Olivardia (1995), .. .is an
objective measure of an individuals degree of muscularity (Olivardia et al., 2000).
It is defined by the formula: (Weight x (100-% body fat)/ height2x 100)+ 6.1 (1.8-
height) (Olivardia et al., 2000). Leit et al. (2000) found that the FFMI of the models
has increased significantly over the past twenty-four years. In fact, some of the men
had FFMI scores considered nearly unattainable without the use of anabolic
steroids. Labre (2002) describes how adolescent males are a target audience for
professional wrestling programs, which feature very muscular men. The same study
cites research indicating that many of adolescent males favorite actors are very
muscular (Distefan et al., 1999 as cited in Labre, 2000). Olivardia et al. (2000)
points out that the masculine movie stars of 50 years ago .did not approach the
muscularity of todays action heroes (p.1294). The muscular ideal is not confined
to the media. One study found a dramatic increase in the muscularity of toy action
figures over the last 30 years (Pope, Olivardia, Gruber, & Borowiecki, 1999).
Findings indicate that some modem action figures are so muscular that if they had
the height of an average male, they would be more muscular than modem
bodybuilders and possibly possess a degree of muscularity beyond human
attainment. A disturbing trend related to the pursuit of muscularity is the rise in
anabolic steroid abuse, which has steadily increased among teenage populations,
particularly among high school males (National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA),
A large amount of the research on muscularity in male body image stems
from the initial documentation of a phenomenon termed reverse anorexia by Pope,
Katz, and Hudson (1993). In this study, 9 members (8.3%) of a sample of 108
bodybuilders recruited to study anabolic steroid abuse reported feeling small and
weak, even though they were actually large and muscular(Pope et al., 1993, p.408).
In addition to these feelings, they also reported wearing heavy clothing to disguise
their bodies (even in the summer) and a fear of appearing physically small to others.
Thus, reverse anorexia came to be defined as 1) having an unrealistic belief of
being small and weak and 2) having this belief ...concretely affect daily life
(Pope et al., 1993, p.408). Also of note is that all 9 bodybuilders reported the use of
Pope et al. (1997) conducted a series of studies focusing on anabolic steroid
use and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) that allowed interaction with many
individuals exhibiting symptoms of reverse anorexia. This allowed the authors to
further distinguish the key symptoms of this syndrome and consider diagnostic
features. Similar symptoms were observed; including the preoccupation with
perceived smallness and behaviors aimed at either hiding this perceived defect
(wearing baggy clothing, avoiding other people) or increasing body size (rigorous
exercise, reported anabolic steroid use). After these observations, the researchers
replaced the term reverse anorexia, with muscle dysmorphia to describe this
Muscle dysmorphia and associated desire for muscularity seems to be more
prominent in male populations, although studies indicate that females may have
similar desires. In one study, Pope at al. (1997) found that 32 of 38 (84%) of female
competitive bodybuilders showed symptoms of muscle dysmorphia. Among non-
bodybuilding female populations, concerns about muscularity related to looking
lean and athletic have been documented (Butler & Ryckman, 1993; Lenart,
Goldberg, Bailey, Dallal, & Koff, 1995, as cited in McCreary and Sasse, 2000, p.
Many studies (including the present one) use exclusively male populations.
One reason for this is that given the muscular male body ideal of Western culture, it
is hypothesized that males are more likely to feel pressure to become muscular and
demonstrate concerns about muscularity or symptoms of muscle dysmorphia. Also,
one of the most detrimental features of muscle dysmorphia, the use of anabolic
steroids, is more likely to occur in male rather than female muscle dysmorphics
(Pope et ah, 1997). Finally, many assessment instruments in this area have been
developed with male populations or are otherwise unsuitable for female populations
(i.e., use male bodies for figure drawings)
Pope et al. (1997) theorized where muscle dysmorphia falls in the spectrum
of psychiatric disorders. The obsession with muscularity and compulsive behaviors
to increase muscularity, combined with behaviors such as mirror-checking and
reassurance seeking, suggested that it could be related to obsessive-compulsive
disorder. The meticulous eating habits described by many of the research
participants suggested a link with eating disorders. Ultimately, the authors
concluded, .since body image is the focus of the preoccupations, it seems more
appropriate to classify muscle dysmorphia as a form of BDD [Body Dysmorphic
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth edition-text revision (DSM-
IV-TR) defines three criteria of BDD: 1) A preoccupation with an imagined
physical defect or an exaggeration of a slight actual anomaly, 2) the preoccupation
causes significant distress or impairment, and 3) no other mental disorder accounts
for the preoccupation. The proposed criteria for muscle dysmorphia reflect the
syndromes conceptualization as a subtype of BDD. Pope et al. (1997) propose the
following criteria for the diagnosis of muscle dysmorphia:
1. The person has a preoccupation with the idea that ones body is
not sufficiently lean and muscular. Characteristic associated
behaviors include long hours of lifting weights and excessive
attention to diet.
2. The preoccupation causes clinically significant distress or
impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of
functioning, as demonstrated by at least two of the following four
criteria: 2a) the individual frequently gives up important social,
occupational, or recreational activities because of a need to maintain
his or her workout and diet schedule; 2b) the individual avoids
situations where his or her body is exposed to others, or endures such
situations only with marked distress of intense anxiety; 2c) the
preoccupation about the inadequacy of body size of musculature
causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning; 2d) the
individual continues to work out, diet, or use ergogenic
(performance-enhancing) substances despite knowledge of adverse
physical or psychological consequences.
3. The primary focus of the preoccupation and behaviors is on being
too small or inadequately muscular, as distinguished from fear of
being fat, as in anorexia nervosa, or as a primary preoccupation only
with other aspects of appearance, as in other forms of BDD.
Assessment techniques employed in body image research generally fall into
two categories: those focusing on subjective evaluation and those focusing on
perceptual aspects (Thompson, 1990). Subjective evaluation focuses on evaluating
the feelings or thoughts produced by internalized images of bodies, while
perceptual measures typically measure how accurately a person estimates their body
size (Cafri and Thompson, 2004, p.21). The instruments and techniques used in
body image research have helped in the development of subjective and perceptual
instruments for the study of muscle dysmorphia and the desire for muscularity.
Subjective measures typically focus on the degree of satisfaction an
individual has with their body, although some measures focus on cognitions,
affective reactions, and anxiety (Thompson, 1990). One common type of
assessment uses figural scales, which present drawings of bodies (silhouettes,
drawings, images). Figural scales often measure what an individual thinks their
current body looks like and what their ideal body would look like, with the
difference between these bodies revealing the degree of satisfaction or
dissatisfaction. Many figural scales exist, including the Figure Rating Scale
(Stunkard, Sorenson, & Schlusinger, 1983) and the Contour Drawing Rating Scale
(Thompson and Gray, 1995).
The Figure Rating Scale (Stunkard et al., 1983) presents subjects with nine
frontal-view drawings of either male or female bodies. The drawings are arranged
in a linear fashion, beginning with a drawing of a body that is somewhat
underweight and progressively increasing to a body that is notably overweight. The
subject picks which body corresponds to their current body and also the body they
would ideally like to have. Another scale used in a similar manner is the Contour
Drawing Rating Scale (Thompson & Gray, 1995). This scale uses nine drawings for
each sex, and the goal was for the drawings to be precisely graduated in size
(Thompson & Gray, 1995, p. 263). Despite their prevalence, Gardner, Friedman,
and Jackson (1998) contend that figural scales, including the Figure Rating Scale,
have methodological flaws such as scale coarseness, restriction of range, and
inconsistencies in the size differences between the bodies depicted in the drawings.
This methodology has been applied to research on muscularity. The
Muscularity Rating Scale (Fumham, Titman, & Sleeman, 1994) is similar to the
scales previously discussed (i.e., nine drawings, ideal and current ratings),
except that the drawings do not vary only in overall body size. Instead, at one end
of the scale, the drawing depicts an extremely anorexic female with hardly any
muscle mass while the other end of the scale depicts a hypertrophic female body
with extremely large muscles (Thompson et al., 1999, p.78). Lynch and Zellner
(1999) developed the Male Figure Drawings scale with drawings of male bodies
also varying in degrees of muscularity.
Certain aspects of figural scale methodology (i.e., a continuum of body
types, the ideal-current selections) may be helpful in studying subjective aspects
of muscularity and muscle dysmorphia. However, figural rating scales fail to make
a distinction important in measuring muscularity: that between muscle mass and fat
mass. It is important to make this distinction for three reasons. First, overall
muscularity and muscular appearance are determined by both muscle mass and fat
mass (i.e., the ratio of muscle mass to fat mass). Second, even though the figural
drawings on the Muscularity Rating Scale and the Male Figure Drawings scale vary
in terms of muscle mass and definition, the overall size of illustrated bodies
increases as muscle mass and definition increases. This could lead a subject to pick
one of the more muscular bodies as his or her ideal not necessarily because of a
desire to have rippling abdominal muscles and striated leg muscles, but simply
because he or she wants a body larger in overall stature than the extremely narrow
and skinny bodies at the other end of the scale. Essentially, figural scales confound
muscle mass and fat mass. Third, previous research (e.g., Pope, Phillips, and
Olivardia, 2000) indicates that when males desire to gain weight, it is usually only
muscle mass (lean body weight) that is desired. Therefore, if an ideal-current
methodology is used to evaluate subjective satisfaction with an illustrated body, the
ability to measure muscle mass and fat mass separately is vital.
A design incorporating a matrix or grid with fat mass positioned on one axis
and muscle mass positioned on the other is one way to make the distinction between
muscle and fat mass. In this design, drawings are not devised or presented in a
linear fashion (i.e., small to large). Instead, one axis has gradations of body fat
while the other axis has gradations of muscle mass, allowing fat mass and muscle
mass to fluctuate independently. Participants are instructed to pick the body that
best resembles his current and ideal body, with the difference reflecting the amount
of muscle and fat mass the participant wishes to gain or lose.
The somatomorphic matrix (Gruber, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane, 1999) is
a computerized instrument that uses the aforementioned matrix rationale, with body
fat on the X-axis and muscularity on the Y-axis. Participants see an initial drawing
with an average body fat and FFMI, and scroll through images to select drawings
that correspond to both to their own body and to the body they ideally would like
to have (Cafri & Thompson, 2004; Cafri, Thompson, and Roehrig, 2004, p.598).
Many studies have used the somatomorphic matrix (Cafri, Strauss, & Thompson,
2002; Gruber et al., 1999; Leit, Gray, & Pope, 2002; Pope, et al., 2000, as cited in
Cafri & Thompson, 2004), although Cafri and Thompson (2004) were the first to
undertake a thorough examination of the reliability of the measure. Cafri and
Thompson (2004) examined the test-retest reliabilities of 63 participants self and
ideal body selections and discrepancy scores, chosen twice, 7-10 days apart.
Findings indicate that the somatomorphic matrix lacks sufficient reliability in many
areas, including males ratings of self-body fat and ideal muscularity, and females
ratings self-muscularity, ideal-muscularity, and ideal-body fat.
The Bodybuilders Image Grid (BIG; Hildebrandt, Langenbucher, &
Schlundt, 2004) is a paper-and-pencil matrix-style instrument that may be used to
evaluate males desired body types. The BIG presents both a frontal view and a
profile view of figure drawings arranged on a matrix, varying in body fat (x-axis)
and muscle mass (y-axis). Each figure is drawn to correspond to specific fat and
muscle masses, so the amount of each mass a subject wishes to gain or lose may be
extrapolated from the discrepancy between the subjects current and ideal body
choices. Subjects choose the drawings corresponding to their current and ideal
bodies. These choices indicate the amount of muscle mass and fat mass the
participant desires to gain or lose, termed the desired muscle (ideal-current FFFI)
and desired fat (ideal-current body fat percentage) scores. The ability of the BIG
to separately measure the amount of muscle and fat mass an individual desires is
valuable in research on muscularity.
A second type of subjective evaluation utilizes questionnaire format. As
with figural scales, evaluating the degree of satisfaction one has with his or her body
is often a goal with questionnaires, although some questionnaires attempt to tap
cognitive, behavioral and affective aspects, as well. The Body Dissatisfaction
subscale of the Eating Disorder Inventory 2 (Garner, 1991 as cited in Thompson et
al., 1999) is commonly used towards this end (Thompson et al., 1999). The
Multidimensional Body-Self Relations questionnaire (MBSRQ; Brown, Cash, &
Mikulka, 1990) and the Body Esteem Scale (BES; Franzoi & Shields, 1984;
Mendelson & White, 1985) are other questionnaire methods used to assess
satisfaction in body image (Thompson, 1990). The Body-Image Automatic
Thoughts Questionnaire (Cash, Lewis, & Keeton, 1987, as cited in Thompson et al.,
1999) measures the cognitions that may accompany body image disturbance. The
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Examination (BDDE; Rosen & Reiter, 1996) evaluates
symptoms of BDD, many of which involve negative cognitions and increased
anxiety about body image.
The measures listed above expanded knowledge about subjective aspects of
body image. Similarly, many questionnaire measures evaluate the subjective
aspects of muscle dysmorphia and the desire for muscularity, such as the Swansea
Muscularity Attitudes Questionnaire (SMAQ; Edwards and Landauer, 1999), the
Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS; McCreary and Sasse, 2000), and the Drive for
Muscularity Attitudes Questionnaire (DMAQ; Morrison, Morrison, and Hopkins,
2003). The majority of the questionnaires explore a general drive for muscularity
and/or general desire for muscularity, although some measures focus on specific
symptoms of muscle dysmorphia, such as the Muscle Appearance Satisfaction Scale
(MASS; Mayville, Williamson, White, Netwmeyer, Drab, 2002) and the Muscle
Dysmorphic Disorder Inventory (MDDI; Hildebrandt et ah, 2004).
Cafri and Thompson (2004) contend that the DMS, compared to other
questionnaire measures of body image, is an effective tool in the study of
muscularity in male body image. This is due to the fact that the DMS evaluates the
desire for muscularity in great depth, evaluates behaviors associated with the desire
for muscularity, and evaluates participants feelings about the upper torso region. In
a study on the convergence of measures of muscularity, Cafri and Thompson
(2004b) found that the Body Image subscale of the Drive for Muscularity Scale
was the strongest predictor of behaviors related to the pursuit of muscularity... (p.
227). The DMS effectively assesses behavioral, cognitive, and affective aspects of
the desire for muscularity. Therefore, it dovetails with the current multidimensional
conceptualization of body image disorders and may serve an important role in
research on muscularity.
The accuracy of body size estimation has been a prominent perceptual
measure in body image research (Thompson et al., 1999). One reason for this
emphasis stems from research (Slade and Russell, 1973 as cited in Thompson et al.,
1999) initially documenting that eating-disordered females overestimate their body
size compared to control subjects (Thompson et al., 1999). Since this initial
observation, the overestimation of body size by eating disordered populations has
been extensively studied and the findings replicated. Accordingly, the DSM-IV
diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa requires there to be a disturbance in the way in
which ones body weight or shape is experienced (DSM-IV-TR). It appears that
muscle dysmorphia may involve some kind of perceptual disturbance, so the
techniques used for body size estimation accuracy research may be applicable to
research on muscularity.
Thompson (1990) describes the progression of research techniques used to
measure size accuracy perception of particular body sites. One of the earliest
techniques to measure specific body sites used two adjustable lights mounted on a
horizontal track, which the subject adjusted to match the perceived width of certain
body regions (Slade and Russell, 1973). Other tools have projected one to four light
beams onto a wall, with subjects matching the widths of the beams to the widths of
certain body sites (Ruff and Barrios, 1986; Thompson and Spana, 1986; Thompson
and Thompson, 1986 all as cited in Thompson, 1990). In either method, the actual
widths of participants bodies are compared to the participants estimations in order
to determine accuracy and the magnitude and direction of distortion if it is present.
Gardner (2001) reviews many methods of measuring whole-body size
estimation accuracy that have been devised. The earliest methods used adjustable
doorframes (Dillon, 1962 as cited in Gardner, 2001) that participants adjusted to
their bodys width or distorted photographs that participants viewed (Glucksman
and Hirsch, 1969, as cited in Gardner, 2001). Other techniques have utilized video
techniques to present subjects with distorted whole-body images, either on a
television screen (Gardner, Martinez, and Sandoval, 1987) or on a wall with a
projector (Gardner, Sorter, and Friedman, 1997; Gardner, Stark, Jackson, and
Friedman, 1999). When presented with these images, participants adjust the width
of the body to match their perceived body size and their accuracy is measured.
The method of limits and the method of adjustment are psychophysical
techniques that have been used to measure body size estimation accuracy and are
described by Gardner (1996). These methods present an initial stimulus to an
individual and adjustments are made until the stimulus matches the perceived size of
the individuals body. The individual makes the adjustments in the method of
adjustment while the experimenter makes the adjustments in the method of limits.
The initial stimulus could be a light beam of a given width (e.g., Ruff and Barrios,
1986), two horizontal lights set apart on a track (e.g., Slade and Russell, 1973), or
an image of a persons body on a television screen (e.g., Gardner et al., 1987).
Multiple series of stimuli are presented and adjusted, either to be larger/wider
(ascending series) or to be smaller/thinner (descending series). Most often, the
average of ascending and descending trials are averaged to indicate an average
body size judgment (Gardner, 1996,p. 329). However, this is not an accurate
representation of body size estimation, due largely to an anchoring effect of the
initial stimulus presented on the final size judgment (Probst, Van Coppenolle,
Vandereycken & Goris. 1992 as cited in Gardner, 1996).
The method of constant stimuli is another psychophysical technique used in
body size estimation research. This method presents a set of stimuli, such as an
image of the participants body, at different levels of distortion (Gescheider, 1997).
The distortion ranges from being nearly undetectable to easily detected, with a 50%
threshold existing somewhere in the middle of the range (Gescheider, 1997;
Gardner, 1996). The 50% threshold is the level of distortion at which the participant
judges half of the images as too wide and half of the images as too thin, and is
also called the point of subjective equality (PSE; Gardner, 1996). In a body size
estimation task, individuals would be presented with stimuli (e.g., images on a
television screen) that are both below and above their actual width, and decide if the
stimuli are underestimations or overestimations of their actual size (Gardner, 1996).
The method of constant stimuli does not have the problem of anchoring effects that
the method of limits/adjustment does, although many trials must be presented to an
individual, which is time consuming for participants and experimenters (Gardner,
The method of limits and the method of constant stimuli may be used to
measure both sensory and non-sensory aspects of body size estimation. Both
methods produce a threshold value, measuring non-sensory components, and a
measure of the amount of change required to exist for an individual to notice (called
the just noticeable difference or JND), which measures the perceptual component
(Gardner, 1996). However, according to Gardner and Bokenkamp, (1996), classical
psychophysical methods .fail to distinguish between perceptual sensitivity of the
subjects who are performing in the studies and the bias they show because of non-
sensory influences..(p. 4). In this context, bias refers to non-sensory factors
that lead an individual to rate an image as too wide or too small. The
participants motivation, attitude and expectations about the amount of distortion
they will see are examples of non-sensory influences.
Distinguishing between the components involved in body image disturbance
and body size estimation characterizes much of the body size estimation research of
the past 10-15 years. Most recently, the process of body size estimation has been
hypothesized to involve sensory and non-sensory factors (Thompson et al., 1999).
Thompson et ah, (1999, p. 291) describe sensory factors as responses of the visual
system (retina, visual cortex), and non-sensory factors as other inputs in the mind
that help to interpret the visual input. Gardner (1996) illustrates the point by
stating the mental picture we have of our bodies.. .reflects the perceptual
component [of body image] and the feelings about out body correspond to the
attitudinal component (p. 327). The importance of distinguishing between the
different components is illustrated when considering the common phenomenon of
an anorexic patient overestimating the size of her body. Is she suffering from a
sensory (perceptual) deficit that prevents her from recognizing her emaciated state
(a long standing belief), or do non-sensory (affective) factors make her feel fat
and cause the observed overestimation? Could it be a combination of both factors?
In order to answer questions such as these, body size estimation techniques should
measure both components.
Within the last 10-15 years, researchers hoping to measure separate
components of body image and body size estimation have turned to the
psychophysical theory of signal detection (TSD; Thompson et ah, 1999). A detailed
description of the theory of signal detection is found in Green and Swets (1964 as
cited in Gardner, 1996). Gescheider (1976, as cited in Gardner, 1996) summarizes
Signals (stimuli) are always detected whether by electronic
devices or by humans against a background level of activity. The
level of this background activity, called noise, is assumed to vary
randomly and may be either external to the detecting device or
caused by the device itself (e.g., physiological noise caused by
spontaneous activity of the nervous system). In the detection
situation the observer must therefore first make an observation (x)
and then make a decision about the observation. On each trial the
observer must decide whether x is due to a signal added to the noise
background or to the noise alone. When a weak signal is applied, the
decision becomes difficult and errors are frequent. One factor
contributing to the difficulty of the problem is the random variation
of background noise. On some trials the noise level may be so high
as to be mistaken for a signal and on other trials it may be so low that
the addition of a weak signal is mistaken for noise. Since the signal is
added to the noise, the average sensory observation magnitude will
always be greater for the signal-plus-noise distribution fsn(x) than for
the noise distribution fn(x). However, the difference between the
means becomes smaller and smaller as the signal strength is
decreased, until the distributions are essentially the same. It is when
the two distributions greatly overlap that decision-making becomes
difficult. On a specific trial the observer makes a sensory
observation x which consists of a sample from one or the other of the
distributions and is required to decide on the correct distribution. The
ordinate of the noise distribution gives the probability density, or
likelihood, of x occurring when only noise is presented. Similarly,
the ordinate of the signal distribution gives the likelihood of x
occurring when a signal is presented. Each value of x can be
expressed in terms of these two likelihoods or probability densities.
For each value of x there exists a particular likelihood ratio .. which
provides the observer with a basis for making a decision since it
expresses the likelihood of x in the signal plus noise (SN) situation
relative to the likelihood of x in the noise (N) situation. Even though
x may vary on several dimensions each x can be located on a
single dimension of likelihood ratio since for each x there exists
single values of fn(x) and fsn(x). Thus, the observer's final decision of
whether x is due to N or SN can be based on a single quantity (pp.
Signal detection methodology has been used to study body size estimation
accuracy in different populations. Two studies used a TV-video device to present
obese and control subjects with images of their bodies that appeared too thin and too
wide (Gardner, Martinez, & Sandoval, 1987a; Gardner, Martinez & Sandoval,
1987b). Findings indicated that TSD is a useful technique in separating perceptual
(sensory) and affective (non-sensory) components of body size estimation. This is
possible because a signal detection methodology produces a measure of perceptual
sensitivity (d\ pronounced d prime) and a measure of response bias ((3). Another
study using similar methodology evaluated the body size estimations of both
anorexic and control subjects (Gardner and Moncrieff, 1988). In contrast to the idea
that anorexics suffer from a perceptual or sensory deficit, no such deficit was
observed in the anorexic subjects. Results did indicate that anorexic subjects were
more likely to report that their image was distorted compared to controls. This
response bias reflects non-sensory differences, or in other words, the anorexic
subjects .respond as though their body were distorted (Gardner & Moncrieff,
1988, p. 106).
A further innovation in measuring perceptual and attitudinal components of
body size estimation separately utilizes adaptive probit estimation (APE). Watt and
Andrews (1981) originally put forth the theory of adaptive probit estimation, which
.. .estimates a complete psychometric function with maximum statistical efficiency
while using minimal subject labor (Gardner and Bokenkamp, 1996, p. 5). This
represents an improvement over signal detection methodology, which requires a
large amount of trials (perhaps up to 500) to produce the most stable results
Fonagy, Benster, and Higgitt (1990), Gardner (1996) and Gardner and
Bokenkamp (1996) describe the application of APE to body size. The manner in
which adaptive probit estimation is used for body size estimation is similar to the
method of constant stimuli. Thus, an initial stimulus (e.g., a whole-body image) is
presented and distorted within a specified range while a participant judges if the
image is too small or too large compared to their actual body size. Several
blocks of trials are presented. According to Gardner (1996), four distortion levels
should be used for the initial stimulus: 9.81% too wide and too thin, and 3.27% too
wide and too thin. In contrast to the method of constant stimuli, beginning at the
end of the second block of trials, the distortion levels may be revised based on data
from the first two blocks. The distortion is revised such that the approximate center
of the stimulus levels corresponds to the point at which 50% of the participants
responses are too wide and 50% of the responses are too thin (the PSE;
Gardner, 1996). The revisions occur at the end of every subsequent block, based on
data from the previous blocks. Upon completion of all blocks, the average PSE and
root mean square standard deviation are calculated (Gardner, 1996). The
probability of the participants too small judgments is plotted, and probit analysis
produces a sigmoid function of the points. When mathematically plotted against the
actual stimulus, this function indicates both the point of subjective equality (PSE)
and the difference limen (DL). The point where 50% of the judgments are too
small and 50% of the judgments are too large is interpreted as the subjects
perceived size of his or her body (the PSE). This measure reflects the non-sensory
or attitudinal component of the estimation. Conversely, the slope of the function,
which accounts for the variability of the points around the PSE, reflects the
sensitivity of the participant to detect the changes in body size (the DL). This
measure reflects the perceptual component of the estimation. Both the PSE and the
DL are illustrated in Figure 1.
Figure 1.1 The best fit cumulative normal sigmoid function for too wide
judgments presented at four levels of distortion (Gardner, 1996).
As seen in Figure 1, the PSE and the DL vary independently. Note that the slope of
the function, which reflects the variability of the points around the PSE, is not
dependent on the level of distortion that corresponds to the PSE. This reiterates a
valuable aspect of APE methodology: the ability to independently measure the
sensory and non-sensory components of body size estimation, measured by the DL
and PSE, respectively.
Gardner, Jones, and Bokenkamp (1995) compared three psychophysical
techniques used in body size estimation research: the method of adjustment, signal
detection, and APE. All three techniques were examined with a TV-video
methodology. The final amount of distortion in the method of adjustment correlated
with the PSE from the APE task; both measures theoretically indicate the
participants perceived body size. Additionally, measures of response bias from the
signal detection and APE tasks (p and the PSE, respectively) were related, as were
measures of sensory sensitivity from both the signal detection task and APE task (d
and the DL, respectively). Several benefits of APE over the other methods were
observed. First, size estimation accuracy (both over- and underestimation) and
sensory sensitivity may be measured. Additionally, APE does not require the large
amount of trials required in signal detection, nor it is vulnerable to the previously
discussed anchoring phenomenon inherent to the method of adjustment. Thus, it
was concluded that APE .. .combines the advantages of both signal detection and
the method of adjustment without their limitations (Gardner et al., 1995, p. 1389).
Gardner and Bokenkamp (1996) utilized APE methodology to examine body
size estimation in both eating disordered and control subjects. Whole-body and body
site images of subjects were projected onto a screen, and subjects judged if the
images appeared too thin or too wide. The eating disordered subjects
consistently overestimated the size of individual body sites and the whole body,
while control subjects accurately estimated whole body size and slightly
underestimated individual body sites. No differences between the groups sensory
sensitivity were observed. Therefore, it was concluded that the overestimation by
eating disordered subjects was due exclusively to non-sensory factors. The authors
state, they respond to the image they see.. .as though it were a fat person.
(Gardner & Bokenkamp, 1996, p. 11).
Recently, Gardner and Boice (2004) have designed a computerized program
that can be used for measuring body size estimation accuracy. The program offers
three methods: the method of adjustment, the staircase method, and APE. Using a
digital camera, a frontal, whole-body image is taken of a participant and imported
into the program. In the APE task, this image is then distorted at the previously
described levels (see Gardner, 1996) while the participant judges if the image
appears too thin or too wide. The stimulus levels are revised according to APE
protocol (see Watt and Andrews, 1981) until all blocks of trials are completed. The
program produces average values of the point of subjective equality (PSE) and the
difference limen (DL). Again, the PSE reflects non-sensory (affective) factors
while the DL indicates sensory sensitivity, or ...the amount of change in body size
necessary for the participant to detect the change 50% of the time (Gardner and
Boice, 2004, p. 93)
The accuracy of body size estimation has long interested body image
researchers. Techniques progressed from the method of adjustment/limits or the
method of constant stimuli to the application of signal detection theory and adaptive
probit estimation. Eating-disordered populations with distorted estimations of their
body size originally impelled this line of research. Similarly, it is suspected that
muscle dysmorphic individuals underestimate body size (see Pope et al., 1997; Pope
et al., 2000). However, the techniques used for body size estimation accuracy have
not yet been applied to a population with a desire for muscularity, let alone muscle
2. Present Study
The interest in muscle dysmorphia and the desire for muscularity is
relatively new, and few instruments have been designed for research in this area.
However, the Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS) and the Bodybuilder Image Grid
(BIG) may be used to evaluate subjective aspects of the desire for muscularity. The
DMS measures attitudes and behaviors associated with the desire for muscularity.
The DMS will provide insight into the prevalence of the drive for muscularity in
this population. The BIG effectively assesses the type of body, in terms of both
muscle and fat desired by an individual. Thus, using the BIG, one goal of the
present study is to determine the type of body college males desire. Together, these
instruments measure an individuals general desire for muscularity.
The study of the desire for muscularity and muscle dysmorphia cannot be
confined to subjective aspects. Interviews with muscle dysmorphics indicate that
they ...see themselves as smaller...than others perceive them (Olivardia, 2001, p.
254). Consider the 6 foot 3 inch, 270-pound man with a 52-inch chest and 20-inch
biceps that remarked, ... when I look in the mirror, I sometimes think that I look
really small (Pope et al., 1997, p. 83). These observations raise two
questions. First, is this phenomenon restricted to individuals with clinical muscle
dysmorphia, or is it related to general concerns about muscularity? If this
phenomenon is not restricted to clinical muscle dysmorphia, it is hypothesized that
the underestimation of body size will correlate with a higher desire for muscularity.
Thus, both the desired muscle score on the BIG and the total score on the DMS will
correlate with the PSE. The second question is paramount to this study: If
individuals who exhibit a desire for muscularity underestimate their body size, does
this underestimation result from a perceptual (sensory) deficit or from affective
(non-sensory) factors? In other words, do they actually see a small body in a
mirrors reflection (perceptual), or do affective factors such as how an individual
thinks he should look guide the interpretation of the reflection as small? It is
hypothesized that no differences in perceptual sensitivity will be observed, thus, the
desired muscle score on the BIG and the total score on the DMS will not correlate
with the DL. Instead, underestimation will be due exclusively to non-sensory,
Male participants (n=36) were recruited from three University psychology
classes. Participation was voluntary, and extra credit was given for participation.
Approximately 75% of males approached in classes expressed interest. Participants
ranged in age from 18-35 (M=20.9, SD=3.97).
3.2.1 The Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS)
McCreary and Sasse (2000) developed this 15-item questionnaire to evaluate
attitudes and behaviors that reflect the degree of peoples preoccupation with
increasing their muscularity (p. 300). According to the authors, these attitudes and
behaviors comprise a general drive for muscularity, and this may be measured in
both males and females using the DMS. The items on the DMS are rated on a 6-
point Likert Scale, with a rating of 1 indicating never and a rating
of 6 indicating always. Higher numbers indicate endorsement of the item and a
higher drive for muscularity. The DMS items are listed in Table 3.1. The DMS has
acceptable internal consistency (a=0.84) and test-retest reliability (r=0.93)
(McCreary & Sasse, 2000; Cafri & Thompson, 2004b). Acceptable face,
convergent, and discriminant validity has been also been found (McCreary & Sasse,
2000). For male samples, the DMS has a two-factor structure: muscularity-oriented
body image and muscle building behaviors (McCreary, Sasse, Saucier, & Dorsch,
3.2.2 The Bodybuilder Image Grid Scaled (BIG-S)
The BIG-S is a paper-and-pencil instrument developed by Hildebrandt et al.
(2004). Participants are presented with drawings of male bodies arranged on a
matrix of squares, with a frontal and profile drawing of a single body occupying one
square. The bodies in the drawings appear wearing Speedo-style swim trunks,
with a single blank circle representing the bodys head and face. The BIG-S
appears in Appendix A.
The bodies vary with respect to body fat and muscle mass, with the x-axis of
the matrix corresponding to body fat (beginning at 3.5%, increasing in 6.5%
intervals, and ending at 36% body fat) and the y-axis corresponding to muscle mass
(beginning at a FFMI of 15.5, increasing in 2.25 FFMI units, and ending at a FFMI
of 29.0). As body fat percentage increases, fat mass appears on the abdomen, hips,
chest, arms, and thighs, and muscle definition decreases, while increases in FFMI
reflects increased size and muscle definition, with visual evidence of muscles
on the torso, arms and legs (Hildebrandt et. al., 2004, p.172). Scales appear
alongside both axes, running from 0-120 on the x-axis and from 0-100 on the y-axis.
Both scales are graded such that 20 units span one square (one drawing).
Participants were asked to choose the body that most closely resembles their
current body and the body they would ideally like to have. Participants identified
their current and ideal bodies by writing down the corresponding scale values.
The scales allow participants to indicate if their chosen body lies between two
drawings; thus, the problem of lost variance due to forced figure choices is
minimized (Hildebrandt et al., 2004, p.173).
The reliability and validity of the BIG-S is described in Hildebrandt et al.
(2004). Test-retest reliability for the BIG-S was established by having
undergraduates (n=25) complete the measure twice at a 1-week interval. Pearsons
product-moment correlation coefficient for current, ideal, and desired ratings of
muscle and fat ranged from 0.72 to 0.96, showing adequate test-retest reliability.
Face validity of the BIG-S was ascertained by having 50 introductory psychology
students order randomized figures from a row of the BIG-S grid from the lowest
amount of body fat and muscle mass to the highest amount, respectively.
Participants did so with high accuracy (97% for males, 94% for females).
Additionally, a sample of participants who chose bodies with low fat scores and
higher amount of muscle mass as their ideal were more likely to demonstrate
behaviors associated with muscularity concerns and muscle dysmorphia, such as
spending more time weightlifting and the use of supplements. This demonstrates
the convergent validity of the BIG-S
3.2.3 Body Image Distortion Program
Gardner and Boice (2004) developed a computerized program that offers
three psychophysical methods to evaluate the accuracy of body size estimation: the
method of adjustment, the staircase method (similar to the method of limits), and
adaptive probit analysis (APE). This study utilized the APE feature of the program.
The program presents a frontal, whole body digital image of the participant on a
computer screen. The image is distorted as previously described to appear either too
wide or too thin. The participant judges if the picture appears too wide or too
thin compared to his actual body size and indicates his judgment by clicking the
right (too wide) and left (too thin) buttons of a computer mouse. Participants
viewed and judged 8 blocks of 40 images.
3.2.4 Demographic Information
The participants age was obtained via self-report. Height was measured
using a tape measure, and weight was measured using a scale. The body mass index
of participants and body composition were calculated, as well.
The Body Image Distortion program was run on a Dell laptop computer with
a Pentium III processor and a Windows 2000 operating system. A Nikon Coolpix
4100 digital camera captured the images of the participants for use in the body size
distortion computer program.
A Firstline therapy Biomarkers 2000 bioimpedance analysis machine
measured participants body fat percentage and fat-free mass. Briefly,
bioimpedance analysis measures body fat by passing a harmless electric current
through an individuals body. Two electrodes attached to the participants hand
initiate the current and two electrodes attached to a foot measure the resistance
(impedance) the current experiences when passing through the body. Depending on
the resistance, the amount of fat and muscle mass may be inferred. For a detailed
review of this procedure, see Heyward and Stolarczyk (1996). Bioimpedance
analysis has been found to be comparable to skinfold measurement in assessing
body fat (Lukaski, Bolonchuk, Hall, Siders, 1986), and is considered a reliable
method of measuring body fat (Jackson, Pollock, Graves, Mahar, 1988)
Participants were approached in three university psychology classes and
offered participation in a study examining how people perceive certain aspects of
their bodies. Informed consent was obtained from interested students. Some of the
participants (n=22) completed the Drive for Muscularity Scale (DMS; McCreary &
Sasse, 2000) and the Bodybuilder Image Grid (BIG; Hildebrandt et al., 2004) in
class. Upon completion, they scheduled a laboratory session to complete the body
image distortion computer program and have their weight, height, and body fat
measured. The remaining participants (n=14) completed the DMS and the BIG at
the laboratory session, before completing the body size distortion program. The
differential methods of data collection resulted from time restrictions in the
recruiting classrooms, and the implications of this are discussed below. To
complete the body size distortion program, the participant stood against a white
background, facing forward, with their arms at their sides held slightly away from
their body. A digital picture was taken of their whole body in this position. Once
the image was imported into the computer program, the participant was seated in
front of a computer and given the following instructions:
In this part of the experiment you will view an image of your body
on this computer. The image will appear thinner or wider than your
actual body size. If you think an image appears too thin compared to
your actual body size, click the left button of the mouse. If you feel
the image appears too wide compared to your actual body size, click
the right button. This part of the experiment will conclude once no
more images appear. Do you have any questions?
Any questions were answered and the participant initiated the program with the
click of a mouse button. Upon completion of the program, the participants
height, weight, and age were recorded. Then, the participant removed his right shoe
and sock and sat in a chair. Four disposable conducting tabs (resembling a band-
aid) were placed on the participants hand and foot. Four wires originating from the
bioimpedance analysis machine were attached to the tabs via alligator clips. The
participant remained seated for 10-15 seconds while the machine estimated his body
fat and lean body mass. Once this information was obtained, it was shared with the
participant and they were informed that they were finished with the study.
Data was collected from 36 participants. Two cases were excluded from
analyses based on incomplete data. One case was excluded based on data from the
body size estimation program. For reasons unknown, the mean DL and the mean
PSE from this case were unrealistic (i.e., PSE = -38.89). Thus, analyses were
conducted based on data from 33 participants. The participants heights, weights,
and body fat percentages were recorded. The average height was 70.6 inches
(SD=2.10), the average weight was 175.9 pounds (SD=25.66), and the mean body
fat percentage was 14.5% (SD=5.01). The average body mass index (BMI) of the
participants was 24.96 (SD=2.60). Body mass index essentially indicates the
relationship between height and weight, and is defined by the formula: (weight in
kilograms/height in meters ).
The data from the DMS were examined to evaluate the presence of the
drive for muscularity (McCreary & Sasse, 2000) in the sample. The average
score for the entire 15-item DMS was 37.26 (SD=10.04). This is similar to the
average scores found in other samples (i.e., McCreary & Sasse, 2000; McCreary et
The most highly endorsed item was I wish that I were more muscular,
(M=3.74, SD=1.18). The least endorsed item was I think about taking anabolic
steroids, (M=l .26, SD=0.71). Only twelve of the participants (36%) reported
lifting weights to build up muscle, often, very often, or always. The
internal reliability of the DMS was good (a=0.8441). The mean scores and standard
deviations for all DMS items are presented in Table 5.1
Table 5.1. Drive For Muscularity Scale Item Means And Standard Deviations.
Drive For Muscularity Scale Item Mean SD
I wish that I were more muscular 3.74 1.19
I lift weights to build up muscle. 3.29 1.34
I use protein or energy supplements. 2.09 1.33
I drink weight gain or protein shakes. 1.82 1.40
I try to consume as many calories as I can in a day. 1.79 1.04
I feel guilty if I miss a weight training session. 2.32 1.22
I think I would feel more confident if I had more muscle mass. 2.91 1.22
Other people think I work out with weights too often. 1.44 0.61
I think that I would look better if I gained 10 pounds in bulk. 2.85 1.60
I think about taking anabolic steroids. 1.26 0.71
I think that I would feel stronger if I gained a little more muscle mass. 3.29 1.45
I think that my weight training schedule interferes with other aspects of my life 1.56 0.90
I think that my arms are not muscular enough. 3.12 1.25
I think that my chest is not muscular enough. 3.32 0.90
I think that my legs are not muscular enough 2.44 1.02
The data from the BIG revealed the type of body the participants desired.
The amount of change between the drawings on the BIG equals 20 units, 6.5% body
fat, or 2.25 fat-free mass index units (FFMI). As previously described, FFMI
(Kouri et al., 1995) is a measure of an individuals muscularity. One FFMI unit is
equal to approximately 7.5 pounds of lean body mass. Since the participants
ideal body had an average of 12.35 units more muscle mass than the average
current body, participants desired a body with an average of 10.42 pounds more
lean body mass than the body they felt they currently possessed. The participants
ideal body had an average of 17.20 units less fat mass the current body. This is
equivalent to a body with 5.59% less body fat.
It was hypothesized that a higher desire for muscularity, as measured by the
DMS and BIG, would correlate negatively with perceived body size. Data from the
body size estimation program reveals that on average, the sample tended to slightly
underestimate body size, PSE=-1.06 (SD=1.18), although this underestimation is not
significant. This means that on average, if an image was distorted 1.06% smaller in
size, 50% of the participants responses would have been too wide and 50%
would have been too small. However, the underestimation was not associated
with higher scores on the total DMS (r=0.065, p=0.715), with the desired muscle
mass score on the BIG (r=-0.025, p=0.888), or with the desired fat score on the BIG
(r=-.241, p0.171). The participants sensitivity to detecting change in body size
was also examined. The average DL for the sample was 5.89 (SD=2.09). This
indicates that on average, an image needed to be distorted 5.89% for a participant to
reliably detect that the image was distorted in size. Although significant
underestimation did not occur, the possible relationship between sensitivity in
detecting change and the desire for muscularity was explored. No relationship was
found between the DL and the total DMS (r=0.149, p=0.399), the muscle mass
desired by the participants (r=0.185, p=0.294), or with the fat mass desired by the
participants (r=-0.021, p=0.908).
One concern was that participants performances on the body size estimation
task may have been influenced by when they completed the DMS and the BIG.
However, mean scores on the DMS and the BIG did not differ significantly between
the groups. For DMS total, t(32)=-0.957, p=0.346, for desired muscle on the BIG,
t(32)=-0.625, p=0.537, and for desired fat on the BIG, t(32)=-l .051, p=0.301. More
importantly, the groups did not differ in mean PSE, t(32)=-1.611, p=0.117, or in
mean DL, t(32)=-0.498, p=0.622.
The total score on the DMS along with the desired muscle and fat mass
scores from the BIG were entered into two multiple regression equations. The first
equation used PSE as the dependent variable. The data from the DMS and the BIG
did not significantly predict PSE, F(3,33)=0.639, p=0.596. The data from the DMS
and the BIG accounted for 3.4% of the variance in PSE. The second regression
equation revealed that DMS and BIG scores did not predict DL, F(3,33)=0.493,
p=0.690, accounting for 4.8% of the variance in DL.
Two multiple regression equations evaluated the effect of the demographic
data collected (participant age, BMI, and body fat percentage) on the PSE and DL.
The first equation using PSE as the dependent variable was significant,
F(3,33)=4.656, p=0.009. The demographic data accounted for 24.9% of the
variance in PSE. Only the effect of age was significant, t(33)2.87, p=0.007, with
younger participants underestimating body size more than older participants. The
second equation used DL as the dependent variable and produced a non-significant
model, F(3,33)=0.152, p=0.927. In this model, the demographic data accounted for
8.3% of the variance in DL.
The present research had several goals. The first was to explore the drive for
muscularity in college males using the drive for muscularity scale (DMS) and to
understand the type of body college males desire using the bodybuilder image grid
(BIG). Furthermore, the results of these instruments were taken as measures of
overall desire for muscularity. Using this information, another goal was to explore
relationship between the desire for muscularity and body size estimation.
The average responses to DMS items were on the low end of the scale, with
most the averages for most items corresponding to never, rarely, and
sometimes. It is concluded that this sample as a whole did not have a particularly
high drive for muscularity, at least not to the point of impairment that a muscle
dysmorphic would likely have. However, the average participant score for the
entire DMS (37.10, SD=10.04) is similar to average total scores reported in the
literature on the DMS (McCreary and Sasse, 2000; McCreary et al, 2004).
Furthermore, even the modest endorsement of certain items such as I wish I were
more muscular, and I wish my chest/arms/legs were more muscular evidences a
muscular ideal for males in this sample. The least endorsed DMS item in this
sample asked about steroid use, one of the most detrimental aspects of a high desire
for muscularity and a characteristic of muscle dysmorphia. The uniform
lack of endorsement on this item in particular suggests that muscle dysmorphia was
non-existent or rare in this sample.
On average, participants indicated on the BIG the desire to have less fat
mass and more muscle mass on their ideal bodies. Participants desired an average
of 10.42 pounds more lean body mass (muscle). This is a substantial amount of
muscle mass to desire, but is less than the amount of lean body mass the males in
Pope et al.s (2000) study desired to gain (approximately 27 pounds). The
responses on the BIG also indicate that the average ideal body had 5.59% less
body fat, so it is apparent that the participants did not desire sheer bulk. Instead, the
samples ideal body was both muscular and lean. This ideal body is similar to the
body portrayed in many Western media outlets, and it is unlikely this is a
coincidence. Because the vast majority of this sample consists of a demographic
that traditionally receives much exposure to the media, their desire for a lean and
muscular body is likely influenced at least partly by the media.
Interestingly, the results of the DMS and the BIG did not correlate. One
explanation for this finding is that participants, regardless of desire for muscularity,
may have responded differently to the images on the BIG than to the statements on
the DMS. Perhaps rating the images on the BIG elicited more self-comparison
and/or shame than did reading the items on the DMS. This could have led to more
extreme responses on the BIG than on the DMS. Additionally, the value of an
individuals response to a DMS item (e.g., never'-1, rarely=2, etc...) may not
necessarily correspond to the amount of muscle or fat he desires to gain or lose. For
instance, an individual wanting to gain 40 pounds of muscle may report wishing he
were more muscular sometimes (value=3), while another person wanting to gain
20 pounds of muscle may wish he were more muscular always (value-6).
Although no correlation was found, both instruments provide unique information
concerning the desire for muscularity.
Although the age of the participants was somewhat restricted, age predicted
PSE. The younger participants in the sample tended to underestimate body size
more so than the older participants. It seems feasible that development and
maturation between the ages of 18 and 25 or simply familiarity with ones body
could lead to the older participants having a more accurate idea of their body size.
The results indicate that the desire for muscularity, as measured by the DMS
and BIG, is not related to underestimation of body size in a general sample of
college males. However, comments made by men in studies on muscle dysmorphia
(Pope et al., 1993; Pope et al., 1997) suggest the underestimation of body size
occurs in muscle dysmorphic populations. It is possible that college males who
desire a lean, muscular body and males with muscle dysmorphia may be distinct
groups. Participants were not evaluated according to the muscle dysmorphia criteria
suggested by Pope et al. (1997), but the low endorsement of certain DMS items (I
think about taking anabolic steroids, I lift weights to build up muscle) suggests
that muscle dysmorphia was rare or non-existent in this sample. Assuming this
sample contained no muscle dysmorphics, something must account for the markedly
muscular men in studies by Pope et al (1997) who claim that they look small.
One explanation involves the reasons that a lean and muscular body is desired.
Males who do not have muscle dysmorphia but have some desire for muscularity
(like those in this sample) may desire and value a lean, muscular body because they
feel it is more attractive, healthier looking, or intimidating to others. This contrasts
with muscle dysmorphics, who may value a high degree of muscularity in and of
itself. Conversely, both normal and muscle dysmorphic populations could desire
this type of body for similar reasons, except that muscle dysmorphics desire it to the
point of clinical impairment. This could account for why no significant
underestimation was observed in this study even though it is suspected to be a
symptom of muscle dysmorphia. Furthermore, since no significant underestimation
of body size was observed, the present study provided no clues about whether the
underestimation cited in muscle dysmorphia literature could be attributed to sensory
or non-sensory factors.
A limitation of this study is the small sample size. The lack of a university
subject pool, participant attrition, and the exclusion of female participants
contributed to the small sample size. Another drawback is that the participants
completed the DMS and the BIG at different times, either in class or at the
laboratory session. No significant differences on mean DMS, BIG, PSE, or DL
scores were found between those participants who completed these measures at
different times. However, it is possible that performance on the body size distortion
program was influenced by completing the DMS and the BIG immediately
beforehand. The prominent concern would be that the DMS and the BIG influenced
the attitudes of the participants (i.e., made them feel small or feel fat) which
may have influenced the estimation of body size. Another concern is that this
sample consisted entirely of college males, so the results may not be representative
of all males, or of females with a desire for muscularity. The age range of the
participants in this sample was relatively restricted, as 85% of the sample was 18 to
22 years old. It is possible that the desire for muscularity varies with age. In order
to draw more certain conclusions that generalize to a larger population, future
studies should employ a more representative sample.
This study adds to the growing literature on male body image and
muscularity concerns, while also advancing a new method of measuring body size
estimation, adaptive probit analysis (APE). The computerized body size estimation
utilizing APE revealed the desire for muscularity in college males is not associated
with the underestimation of body size. However, since this study utilized a normal
sample, the underestimation of body size may be a feature of muscle dysmorphia.
Future research should directly address the question of body size underestimation in
muscle dysmorphia. For instance, future research could use the diagnostic criteria
outlined by Pope et al. (1997) to identify muscle dysmorphic individuals and
compare their body size estimations with non-muscle dysmorphics. Furthermore,
previous research has examined the importance of muscularity in gay male (Yelland
& Tiggemann, 2003), female (Fumham et ah, 1994), and athletic (Raudenbush &
Meyer, 2003) populations. A better understanding of muscularity and its
relationship to body size estimation will be had if future research utilizes these
populations, as well. A methodology similar to the one employed in this study is
viable, and the utilization of APE theory is recommended. This way, not only can
the underestimation of body size be detected, but also the extent to which sensory
and non-sensory factors are involved may be measured.
Appendix A. The Bodybuilder Image Grid (BIG)
The Bodybuilder Image Grid (Hildebrandt et al., 2004). The original version (BIG-
O) uses the numbers above the drawings, while the scaled version (BIG-S) used the
scales on the top and sides.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of
mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author
Brown, T.A., Cash, T.F., & Mikulka, P.J. (1990). Attitudinal body-image
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