Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Theses & dissertations (College of Business)



First Advisor

Russell N. Laczniak


Stereotypical female portrayals are still common in advertisements while the role of women in society has progressed. In recent years, it appears there has been a move toward portraying women in power positions in ads. The first part of this research focuses on this new trend of female portrayals in ads. Power is defined as the capability to change others’/self behavior. Building on theories of social power and feminine power, a new typology for different types of female power in ads is proposed. This typology includes five types of female power in ads including sexual power, athletic power, expert power, family power, and empowerment. To determine the viability of this classification system, participants are asked to complete a sorting task. A set of current pre-rated print ads are given to participants for them to sort into ads that demonstrate a similar type of female power in the same category. Multidimensional scaling and hierarchical clustering of the results from sorting is used to extract the underlying dimensions of female power in ads and provide empirical evidence for the proposed typology.

The second part of this research focuses on one type of female power—sexual power. Portrayals of power could show different types of pride as a characteristic of the female model. Social comparison theory suggests individuals constantly compare themselves with others, self-referencing can enhance the impact of social comparison. One of the important characteristics of sexual power images in ads is the portrayal of pride. Based on how pride is derived (authentic vs hubristic), different types of envy are likely to result. Envy can be categorized as either malicious or benign. This research proposes social comparison and self-referencing in this situation will lead to envious responses in female receivers, with self-referencing enhancing social comparison. In addition, the type of pride portrayed in the ad will influence female receivers’ attitudes toward ads. Comparing one’s self with proud, sexually attractive females in ads is likely to make women envious. When this envy is malicious (in response to hubristic pride), female receivers are likely to become hostile against the portrayed female model in the advertisement and, subsequently, against the brand. However, when envy is benign (in response to authentic pride), female receivers are believed to try to improve themselves to resemble the models. Two different experiments are utilized to study these effects and processes.


Copyright Owner

Melika Kordrostami



File Format


File Size

142 pages