Societal food-related values as reflected in magazine advertisements: a content analysis 1933-1983

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Virginia Tech


A common goal of the home manager is to provide nourishing, pleasing food for the family which complies with the budget, time, energy, and knowledge constraints of the home manager. Since values govern behavior, the study of them is necessary for understanding the motivations behind food choices.

The purpose of this study was to determine trends and the changes in the hierarchical ranking of selected food-related values as reflected in magazine food advertisements from 1933 through 1983. The four selected values: convenience, health, economy, and pleasure were derived from the four major meal management goals.

Using the method of content analysis, food advertisements in the magazine Good Housekeeping were analyzed. The sample was delimited to the full and half page food advertisements contained in a random selection of 2 issues from each odd year for a total sample size of 52 issues. In terms of frequency, the verbal themes of the advertisements were analyzed for the expression of the four selected values toward food as either primary or secondary messages.

On the basis of this study, content analysis of magazine food advertisements to determine trends in societal values toward food seemed valid. The results supported the hypothesis that the hierarchy of values changes over time. However, the value of pleasure consistently ranked the highest as the other values changed in the hierarchy. Many of the trends in the values hierarchy seemed to correspond with societal trends during the selected time period.