Psychophysiological Reactivity to Self and Model Images in an Upward Social Comparison Manipulation
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The current study examined affective reactivity to oneself in an upward socialcomparison manipulation using autonomic physiological responses. Study I was conducted to select images of thin and average size models used to elicit a social comparison process for Study II. For Study II, thirty-two female undergraduate students had their startle reflex and skin conductance responses recorded while viewing images of themselves presented adjacent to thin or average size models. Participants also viewed positive, negative, and neutral affect images to test our experimental manipulation of Peter Lang’s startle paradigm. Following the visual presentation, participants used the SAM scale to rate each image along the dimensions of valence, arousal, dominance, body satisfaction, and attractiveness. Analyses revealed that participants reacted to thin and average size models and self with similar levels of body image satisfaction, valence, and arousal, even though thin models were perceived as highly more attractive. Positive affect images were rated higher on valence and arousal among all the picture types. With regards to the psychophysiological data, there were differences in startle reactivity among the three model-to-self comparison images, with images of Thin-to-Self Comparison eliciting more of an inhibited startle response and Thin-to-Average Comparison images eliciting more of a potentiated startle response. In terms of arousal, positive affect images were perceived as more arousing among all the picture types. Contrary to what was expected, there were no significant differences in skin conductance responsiveness between the three model-to self comparison images. The results are discussed from a social-comparison perspective with regard to affective reactivity to body image. Future research directions are proposed.
Tamez, Jeannine (2010). Psychophysiological Reactivity to Self and Model Images in an Upward Social Comparison Manipulation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from