Looking up and Seeing Green: Women’s Everyday Experiences With Physical Appearance Comparisons
Psychological research documents the extent to which physical appearance comparisons are associated with negative emotional experiences, but researchers typically study physical appearance comparisons isolated from other comparison experiences. As part of a signal-contingent experience sampling design, 87 female undergraduate students recorded whether they had made any comparison about any topic after they received a text message at three randomly chosen times a day for 7 days. In contrast to other comparisons, physical appearance comparisons were more likely to be upward contrasts to dissimilar targets associated with increased envy, less inspiration, less pride, and less anxiety. Women who reported more demographically similar close friends reported more envy following physical appearance comparisons in contrast to women who reported more demographically diverse close friends. Women who associated their body with a better quality of life reported more inspiration and less envy following physical appearance comparisons. More demographically diverse close friends and a more positive body image may protect women from the negative emotional consequences associated with physical appearance comparisons. These data indicate that the positive benefits for interpersonal judgments associated with close cross-group friends extend to intrapersonal reactions to physical appearance comparisons.