Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communication and Journalism



Committee Chair

Fei Xue

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

David Davies

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Christopher Campbell

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Vanessa Murphree

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism


McQuail (1994) observed, “The entire study of mass communication is based onthe premise that the media have significant effects” (p. 327). Many of these studies in mass communication have focused specifically on the various consequences that are believed to be a result of advertising. These images and perceptions can also become an individual’s reality which serves to shape society and their day-to-day environment. As Rudy, Popova, and Linz (2010) wrote, “Extensive media exposure leads audience members to adopt media reality as their own, and these altered conceptions of reality can in turn influence behavior” (p. 708). Understanding these visual representations, these perceptions, and their origins, is significant in understanding and predicting consumer behavior. By understanding and predicting consumer behavior in society, companies and advertisers can have greater success in marketing products and increasing sales.

The purpose of this study was to determine if the depictions of males in six contemporary magazines from 1980 through 2010 reflected the demographic makeup and composition of actual society regarding occupation, family roles, product usage, ethnicity and age, as documented through the U. S. Census data information. The six magazines in this study were selected based on their similarity in readership and ethnic appeal. They are: GQ, Sports Illustrated, People Ebony, Cosmopolitan, and Essence. The sample was collected from April and September issues of each magazine for the years 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010. These years were selected because of the significance of the societal changes relevant to those years.

Only full-page advertisements with at least one male depicted were selected. This could not be a digital image, cartoon, line drawing or photograph. The total sample population consisted of 2,699 advertisements. A quantitative analysis was used to code each advertisement. The findings in this study indicate that depictions of males in magazines are not consistent with U.S. Census data information for the population regarding occupation, family roles, product user, ethnicity, or age. More specifically, as the service population emerges as one of the leading occupation categories, it is only third in popularity in most of these magazines in depictions of males in occupation roles. Similarly, even though Census data indicates a rise in males as heading single parent homes, males are seldom, if ever, depicted in these magazine advertisements in family roles. Regarding product usage, there is no dominant product category that indicates males are consistent patrons of any one product other than clothing, although the Consumer Expenditure data form the U.S. Census (2012) data showed that finance and real estate had the highest percentages. The ethnicity category showed the same discrepancy with a gross under-representation of minority males depicted in advertisements even though the U.S. Census (2012) data shows a continuous rise in the number of minorities in the United States. Lastly, the popularity of males depicted in advertisements as 45-59 years of age overshadows all, indicating a misrepresentation of the actual population according to Census information.