The Influence of Social Comparison on Visual Representation of One’s Face
by Ethan Zell, Emily Balcetis
Can the effects of social comparison extend beyond explicit evaluation to visual self-representation—a perceptual stimulus that is objectively verifiable, unambiguous, and frequently updated? We morphed images of participants’ faces with attractive and unattractive references. With access to a mirror, participants selected the morphed image they perceived as depicting their face. Participants who engaged in upward comparison with relevant attractive targets selected a less attractive morph compared to participants exposed to control images (Study 1). After downward comparison with relevant unattractive targets compared to control images, participants selected a more attractive morph (Study 2). Biased representations were not the products of cognitive accessibility of beauty constructs; comparisons did not influence representations of strangers’ faces (Study 3). We discuss implications for vision, social comparison, and body image.
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