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Social comparison orientation and self-perception of physical attractiveness in women

28 October 2010

PhD ceremony: Ms. A.Z. Bosch, 11.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Thesis: Social comparison orientation and self-perception of physical attractiveness in women

Promotor(s): prof. A.P. Buunk, prof. A. Dijkstra

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences


It is generally assumed that exposure to media models has a negative effect on the self-perceptions of young women. Indeed, generally spoken, young women do compare themselves very often with others. However, individuals may differ in the tendency to compare themselves with others, thus, in social comparison orientation .In this thesis, the differences between women high in SCO (high comparers) and low in SCO (low comparers) in how they compare their appearance to others are examined.

In the first experiments, high comparers felt more positive and more attractive when they were exposed to a photograph of an attractive woman compared to low comparers. However, high comparers felt less positive about themselves when they were exposed to a photograph of a less attractive woman. Thus, contrastive to what is generally assumed, exposure to attractive models will have a positive result for many women, instead of a negative one.

Next, the processes that may underlie the differences in response to exposure to attractive models are explored. First, high comparers have a less stable self-perception of attractiveness than low comparers. Furthermore, high comparers do more easily assume that they have a lot in common with others, than low comparers do

To summarize, high comparers may perceive others more easily as similar to themselves than low comparers do. This suggests that high comparers do not have a clear consistent self-perceptions of their appearance and that they have less explicit self views and that they adjust their self-views very easily to the ones they compare themselves with.

The results of this thesis clearly show that the effect of comparison is different for high and low comparers. It is impossible to predict in what way exposure to attractive or less attractive women affects the self-perception when it is unclear if this woman is a low or a high comparer: the response of high comparers is exactly opposite to the response of low comparers.



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