Targets of comparison and body image in women’s everyday lives: the role of perceived attainability

Jasmine Fardouly*, Rebecca T. Pinkus, Lenny R. Vartanian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Appearance comparisons can negatively influence women’s body image, but little is known about the potential impact of comparison targets. We conducted an ecological momentary assessment study in which female undergraduate students (N = 146) completed a brief online survey at five random times every day for five days. In this survey, participants were asked if they had made an appearance comparison. If so, they were asked who they compared themselves to (i.e., close peer, acquaintance, stranger, celebrity/model), how they rated compared to that person (i.e., more attractive, just as attractive, less attractive), and how attainable that person’s appearance is to them. All participants then completed state measures of mood, appearance satisfaction, and intention to diet and exercise. Upward comparisons (i.e., to more attractive others) to all targets were associated with less appearance satisfaction, lower positive mood, and more thoughts of dieting and exercising than when no comparisons were made. There were indirect relationships between comparisons to celebrities/models versus all other targets and appearance satisfaction via perceived attainability of the target’s appearance. These findings suggest that celebrities may be particularly harmful appearance comparison targets in women’s everyday lives because their attractive appearance is perceived to be less personally attainable than other targets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages11
JournalBody Image
Volume38
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • social comparison
  • body image
  • mood
  • social comparison target
  • naturalistic
  • attainability

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