Stand still, look pretty: The effect of social comparison to idealized images (Hump Day Hmm for 3-26-2008)
Today I am listening to the words of others. Yours. And these.
1. "Social comparison and body image: attractiveness comparisons to models and peers among adolescent girls and boys" (Statistical Data Included) Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov, 2001 by Diane Carlson Jones
The empirical relationship between social comparison and body image has been evaluated among college students, primarily for women. The general finding has been that females who have reported more appearance-related social comparisons have been more likely to be dissatisfied with their body images (Faith, Leone, & Allison, 1997; Stormer & Thompson, 1996; Thompson, Coovert, & Stormer, 1999). The linkage between social comparison and negative body image may be enhanced in the research because the targets of the appearance comparisons have frequently been models and celebrities presented in the media (Botta, 1999; Taylor et al., 1998). Media images of thin females and muscular males represent idealized versions of physical attractiveness. Analyses of appearance magazines have revealed a steady bombardment of images that have underscored the importance of idealized appearance (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Spitzer, Henderson, & Zivian, 1999). The repeated media images of thin females and muscular males make these forms seemingly the standard of attractiveness. Social comparison to these idealized images then appears to promote a discrepancy between the attractiveness of self and other, leading to a more negative evaluation of self.
But what about beyond looks? What about esteem with regard to sense of self worth and accomplishment?
2. "Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You're Just a Perfectionist," By BENEDICT CAREY (Published: December 4, 2007)
Just about any sports movie, airport paperback or motivational tape delivers a few boilerplate rules for success. Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best.
Above all, be true to yourself.
It’s hard to argue with those maxims. They seem self-evident — if not written into the Constitution, then at least part of the cultural water supply that irrigates everything from halftime speeches to corporate lectures to SAT coaching classes.
Yet several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress — as Freud, Alfred Adler and countless exasperated parents have long predicted — but also suggest that perfectionism is a valuable lens through which to understand a variety of seemingly unrelated mental difficulties, from depression to compulsive behavior to addiction.
3. "Hedonic Consequences of Social Comparison: A Contrast of Happy and Unhappy People," by Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California, Riverside and Lee Ross, Stanford University
Self-perceptions and self-evaluations depend not only on the absolute nature of one's accomplishment and performance but also on the way one measures up to relevant peers (Festinger, 1954; Suls, 1977; Wills, 1981, 1991). Opportunities for such social comparison are ubiquitous, as everyday social interactions and the media inundate us with information about other people's accomplishments, actions, and lifestyles. Furthermore, the comparison process itself often seems relatively automatic. Most find it next to impossible to hear about others' successes and failures, or good and bad fortune, without reflecting on their own accomplishments and status. People learn early in life that success often is a matter of relative rather than absolute performance and, consequently, strive to learn how they stand relative to "relevant others." Indeed, such social comparison processes often may be highly adaptive. As Festinger (1954) suggested, successful social functioning requires people to evaluate the merits of their views and abilities, and in the absence of objective information, such evaluation necessarily depends on social comparison.
. . .researchers increasingly have shifted their focus from the dynamics of the
comparison process itself to the hedonic consequences of such comparison. Much of this work has proceeded from the simple assumption that upward comparisons generally are threatening to well-being and self-esteem, whereas downward comparisons are self-enhancing or reassuring. Many laboratory and field studies (e.g., Morse & Gergen, 1970; Wheeler & Miyake, 1992) have supported this proposition, showing that greater increases or smaller decreases in participants' subjective well-being (e.g.,
elevated mood, enhanced self-esteem) follow downward comparison (e.g., Hakmiller, 1966) and greater decreases or smaller increases in subjective well-being follow upward comparison (e.g., Wood, Taylor, & Lichtman, 1985).
Empirical and anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the affective consequences of a social comparison often may depend less on its direction than on the context and manner of its use (e.g., Brickman & Bulman, 1977; Buunk, Collins, Taylor, Van-Yperen, & Dakof, 1990; Taylor & Lobel, 1989; Tesser, 1988).
What do you say?
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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