Advertisement

Social Comparison

  • C. Peter HermanEmail author
  • Janet Polivy
  • Patricia Pliner
  • Lenny R. Vartanian
Chapter

Abstract

A large literature shows that people compare themselves to others on a wide variety of dimensions; this is called social comparison. Such comparisons to other people can provide useful guides for our behavior, and they may also have emotional consequences, affecting our self-esteem and happiness. We compare ourselves to others with respect to our food consumption as well as other behaviors related to eating. For example, we compare how much food others are eating as compared to our portions, what types of foods others eat, dimensions related to eating such as body weight and shape and even dimensions not directly related to eating such as social status. Such food-related social comparisons can affect not only our eating but our emotions and other behaviors as well. We want to “look good,” act appropriately, and be treated fairly, relative to others, and social comparisons around food and eating are important contributors to this.

Keywords

Social comparison Emotional response Amount of food Food choices Appropriate foods 

References

  1. Brunstrom, J. (2011). The control of meal size in human subjects: A role for expected satiety, expected satiation and premeal planning. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 70, 155–161.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Exline, J. J., Zell, A. L., Bratslavsky, E., Hamilton, M., & Swenson, A. (2012). People-pleasing through eating: Sociotropy predicts greater eating in response to perceived social pressure. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31, 169–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Frazier, B. N., Gelman, S. A., Kaciroti, N., Russell, J. W., & Lumeng, J. C. (2012). I’ll have what she’s having: The impact of model characteristics on children’s food choices. Developmental Science, 15, 87–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Groesz, L. M., Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction. A meta-analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 1–16.Google Scholar
  5. Herman, C. P., Roth, D., & Polivy, J. (2003). Effects of the presence of others on food intake: A normative interpretation. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 873–886.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Higgs, S., & Thomas, J. (2016). Social influences on eating. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 9, 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Joshi, R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2004). Self-enhancing effects of exposure to thin-body images. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35, 333–341.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Kerameas, K., Vartanian, L. R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2015). The effect of portion size and unit size on food intake: Unit bias or segmentation effect? Health Psychology, 34, 670–676.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Leone, T., Herman, C. P., & Pliner, P. (2008). Perceptions of undereaters: A matter of perspective? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1737–1746.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Liberman, Z., Woodward, A. L., Sullivan, K. R., & Kinzler, K. D. (2016). Early emerging system for reasoning about the social nature of food. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, 113, 9480–9485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Locke, K. D. (2007). Personalized and generalized comparisons: Causes and consequences of variations in the focus of social comparisons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 213–225.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Lockwood, P. (2002). Could it happen to you? Predicting the impact of downward comparisons on the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 343–358.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Lockwood, P., & Kunda, Z. (1997). Superstars and me. Predicting the impact of role models on the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lockwood, P., & Kunda, Z. (1999). Increasing the salience of one’s best selves can undermine inspiration by outstanding role models. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 214–228.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41, 954–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Mills, J., Polivy, J., Herman, C. P., & Tiggemann, M. (2002). Effects of exposure to thin media images: Evidence of self-enhancement among restrained eaters. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1687–1699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pliner, P., Rizvi, S., & Remick, A. (2009). Competition affects food choice in women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 42, 557–564.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Polivy, J. (2017). What’s that you’re eating? Social comparison and eating behavior. Journal of Eating Disorders, 5.Google Scholar
  19. Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (1987). The diagnosis and treatment of normal eating. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 635–644.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2002). If at first you don’t succeed: False hopes of self-change. American Psychologist, 57, 677–689.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2006). Restrained eating in modern society: An evolutionary perspective on dieting. Appetite, 47, 30–35.Google Scholar
  22. Polivy, J., Herman, C. P., & Deo, R. (2010). Getting a bigger slice of the pie: Effects on eating and emotion in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Appetite, 55, 426–430.Google Scholar
  23. Polivy, J., & Pliner, P. (2015). “She got more than me”: Social comparison and the social context of eating. Appetite, 86, 88–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Rancourt, D., Leahey, T. M., LaRose, J. G., & Crowther, J. H. l. (2014). Effects of weight-focused social comparisons on diet and activity outcomes in overweight and obese young women. Obesity, ePub November 19.Google Scholar
  25. Robinson, E., Haynes, A., Hardman, C. A., Kemps, E., Higgs, S., & Jones, A. (2017). The bogus taste test: Validity as a measure of laboratory food intake. Appetite, 116, 223–231.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Salvy, S. J., Jarrin, D., Paluch, R., Ifran, N., & Pliner, P. (2007). Effects of social influence on eating in couples, friends and strangers. Appetite, 49, 92–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schachter, S., Goldman, R., & Gordon, A. (1968). Effects of fear, food deprivation, and obesity on eating. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1968(10), 91–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schutz, H. K., Paxton, S. J., & Wertheim, E. H. (2002). Investigation of body comparisons among adolescent girls. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 1906–1937.Google Scholar
  29. Shutts, K., Kinzler, K. D., McKee, C. B., & Spelke, E. S. (2009). Social information guides infants’ selection of foods. Journal of Cognitive Development, 10, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Spanos, S., Vartanian, L. R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2015). Personality, perceived appropriateness, and acknowledgement of social influences on food intake. Personality and Individual Differences, 87, 110–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Thompson, J. K., Coovert, M. D., & Stormer, S. M. (1999). Body image, social comparison, and eating disturbance: A covariance structure modeling investigation. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 26, 43–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Tiggemann, M., & Polivy, J. (2010). Upward and downwards: Social comparison processing of thin idealized media images. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 356–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tiggemann, M., Polivy, J., & Hargreaves, D. (2009). The processing of thin ideals in fashion magazines: A source of social comparison or fantasy? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 28, 73–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tylka, T. L., & Sabik, N. J. (2010). Integrating social comparison theory and self-esteem within objectification theory to predict women’s disordered eating. Sex Roles, 63, 18–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Vartanian, L. R., Herman, C. P., & Wansink, B. (2008). Are we aware of the external factors that influence our food intake? Health Psychology, 27, 533–538.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Wertheim, E. H., Paxton, S. J., Schutz, H. K., & Muir, S. L. (1997). Why adolescent girls watch their weight? An interview study examining socio-cultural pressures to be thin. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 42, 345– 355.Google Scholar
  37. Wood, J. V. (1989). Theory and research concerning social comparisons of personal attributes. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 231–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Woolley, K., & Fishbach, A. (2017). A recipe for friendship: Similar food consumption promotes trust and cooperation. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 27, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Peter Herman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Janet Polivy
    • 2
  • Patricia Pliner
    • 2
  • Lenny R. Vartanian
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto, MississaugaMississaugaCanada
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUNSW SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations