Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Stephen Groce (Director), Dr. Holli Drummond, Dr. Douglas Smith

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Advertisers use sexual imagery to attract attention to their messages and to demonstrate the "outcomes" of buying and using the brand. In addition to receiving information about a product, we subconsciously process the entire advertisement. Vicarious learning emphasizes that individuals not only learn from their own experiences but also from observing others. However, vicarious learning also influences the judgment and values of an individual. This study focuses on the portrayal of gender dominance in such advertisements. The magazines chosen for the study are three predominantly female magazines and three predominantly male magazines. Six issues from each magazine were sampled and only advertisements that fit the criteria of the study were utilized. A total of 202 advertisements displaying 244 male and female interactions were coded.
The results of the content analysis indicated that advertisements featuring male and female actors interacting portrayed the female actor in the dominant role more often than the male actor. Females were found to be the dominant actors in most predominantly women’s magazines; however, males were displayed as the dominant actors in most predominantly men’s magazines. The findings from this study support the importance and significance of social learning and modeling. Based on the results of this study, the dominant and submissive cues displayed in advertisements provide learning behaviors for consumers.


Gender and Sexuality | Sociology