Study: Ads with plus-size models unlikely to work

March 22, 2010

Increasingly common ads and catalogues featuring plus-size models are unlikely to work on their intended customers. That’s according to a new study by researchers at ASU, the University of Cologne in Germany and Erasmus University in the Netherlands, which demonstrates a link between model sizes in advertisements and the self-esteem of consumers looking at the ads.

“We believe it is unlikely that many brands will gain market share by using heavy models in their ads,” said Naomi Mandel, marketing associate professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. “We found that overweight consumers demonstrated lower self-esteem – and therefore probably less enthusiasm about buying products – after exposure to any size models in ads (versus ads with no models). Also, normal-weight consumers experienced lower self-esteem after exposure to moderately heavy models, such as those in Dove soap’s ‘Real Women’ campaign, than after exposure to moderately thin models.” Download Full Image

Mandel and her colleagues performed a series of experiments based on the popular idea that looking at extremely thin models can negatively affect consumers’ self-esteem and possibly even lead to eating disorders in young girls. That belief is why fashion show organizers in Milan, Italy and Madrid, Spain, recently banned super waif models from their catwalks.

In the new study, researchers took the link between model size and self-esteem even further by factoring in the consumers’ own body size and self-esteem before looking at the ads. Although they did confirm that exposure to extremely thin models can be damaging to most women’s self-esteem, they also found some surprising effects.

“We show it is not just the size of the models in the ads, but also the relative distance between the consumer’s size and the model’s size that affects self-esteem,” Mandel said.

In the experiments, hundreds of female students were categorized as having low, normal or high body mass index (BMI) based on their heights and weights. They were then invited to a lab, but were not told the true nature of the study. They were shown a variety of ads and told to answer several questions, only some of which were truly related to the study. The questionnaires showed the participants’ self-esteem shifted based on the model sizes they saw in the ads and whether they considered themselves to be similar to or different from those sizes.

Low-BMI, thinner women tended to experience a boost in self-esteem when they viewed all models because they identified positively with the thinner models and saw themselves as different from the heavier models. Higher-BMI, heavier women dropped in self-esteem when looking at all models because they saw themselves as different from the thinner, idealized ones and similar to the overweight models.

Normal-BMI women had the most shifts in self-esteem, depending on what types of images they saw and could therefore be the most influenced by pictures in ads. For example, if they viewed a moderately thin model, they felt similar and good; if they saw a moderately heavy model, they worried they were similar and overweight.

These findings could be used to prompt changes in behavior. For example, if a normal-size woman sees moderately heavy images in ads for weight-loss products, she might feel overweight and be more inclined to buy a diet plan or gym membership. The same premise could apply to using heavy images in public service announcements aimed at fighting the obesity epidemic.

Dirk Smeesters, marketing associate professor of Erasmus University, and Thomas Mussweiler, social psychology professor of the University of Cologne, worked with Mandel on the study, which will be published in April’s Journal of Consumer Research.

Get Smart LEGO team rocks at robot games

March 22, 2010

[See video: Team">">Team Get Smart at 2010 World Fest]

A team of eight young students from Peoria, Ariz., who last December won the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Arizona State Championship Tournament for a third straight year, gave a stellar performance at the FLL World Festival at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta April 15 to 17.

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University have hosted the past two FLL Arizona state tournaments, and will host again this year on Dec. 11 at ASU’s Tempe campus.

Representing Arizona in robotics competitions against more than 80 of the best student FIRST LEGO League teams from more than 30 countries at the FLL World Festival, the Peoria students – who call their team Get Smart – won the second-place Champion’s Award, a third-place Robot Performance Award and the Adult Mentor Award for coach Scott Gray.

The Get Smart team performed flawlessly in three rounds of robot competition rounds, posting perfect scores.  The team presented an innovative project solution based on this year’s theme for the World Festival competition, and demonstrated exceptional teamwork skills.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that encourages youngsters to learn to think like scientists and engineers. FLL‘s robotics competition – billed as “sport for the mind” – is designed to motivate students ages 9 to 14 to discover the basic principles of science, technology, engineering and math.

Since the FLL state championship tournament came to ASU, participation has grown by almost 30 percent. More than 150 teams from Arizona schools competed in 2009, with the 32 best teams from regional competitions going to the state tournament.

The Get Smart team consists of: Frontier Elementary School students Ryan Gray, 10; Adam Gray, 12; Dobry Kolacz, 12; and Matthew Lerner, 12; Happy Valley Basic School student David Lerner, 10; and Copperwood Elementary School students Joseph Scheidemandel, 13; Coleman Ellis, 13; and Kenji Onaka, 13.

The team was formed four years ago when Joseph Scheidemandel and Adam Gray decided to organize a group of friends interested in LEGOs and robotics.

Transportation was the theme for this year’s FLL World Festival competition. Teams had to excel at the “Smart Move” Challenge by constructing and programming a robot utilizing a LEGO MINDSTORMS kit.

The robot completed a series of missions, each within 2-and-a-half-minute time frames, including climbing steep ramps, responding to changing conditions and enduring crash tests.

“I’m really excited that I got to go to Atlanta and see robots from all over the world,” said team member David Lerner.

The challenges at the FLL World Festival followed the same format as the one-day state competition, except that the international event was extended to two-and-a-half days. Students met with engineers and computer experts to give a presentation on the design, construction and performance of their robots.

The teams were also required to present their research based on the competition’s transportation theme, giving details on how students explored options to improve today’s transportation systems to meet the growing needs of 21st century society.

In addition, there was an alliance competition. It allied Get Smart team with several other teams to perform all of the assigned robotics missions in the least amount of time.

“Teamwork, hands-on engineering, presentation and research skills are developed through this competition,” said Patty Smith, the Arizona FLL operational partner for ASU and a K-12 outreach coordinator for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. />
“Everyone involved in FLL is exposed to a tremendous learning experience,” Smith said. “It inspires young people to use their knowledge and skills to positively change the world.”

In preparation for the FLL World Festival, the Get Smart team had spent the past several months refining their presentation, as well as improving the accuracy and the speed of their robot.

“The team had completely overhauled their attachments to the robot to complete their missions," said Scott Gray, who coaches the team along with Eric Scheidemandel. "They were taking two minutes and 20 seconds to complete the missions. Now they are down to about a minute.”

The atmosphere at the FLL World Festival “is what I imagine the Olympics are like, with teams from all around the world participating,” he said. “The kids are just awestruck by the magnitude of the event. “

According to the Get Smart coaches, in the team’s first year of competition, the students developed a strong interest in science, engineering and math.

“The competition has gotten them focused on developing the skills they need to succeed,” Gray said.

“I love programming,” said team member Coleman Ellis. “Constructing and making the robot do all of these missions with my friends is a lot of fun. “

The Get Smart team also was selected by the FLL World Festival to perform at the opening ceremony at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

In addition to learning about robotics, the team has formed a musical ensemble. It played a medley on wind instruments that featured the theme music from the movie “Get Smart,” along with music from other popular spy movies.

Written by Jessica Graham

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Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering