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Testing the Affect Model of Social Comparison (AMSC): Emotional and Behavioral Implications of Viewers' Shifting Comparisons to Transforming Media Targets

  • Author(s): Keblusek, Lauren Marie
  • Advisor(s): Nabi, Robin L.
  • et al.

Past research on social comparison and media has not explored how comparisons shift over the course of a program, or more specifically, how different comparison directions alter audiences' affective states and behavior. Using an experimental design that manipulated comparison direction by exposing participants to the beginning and/or the ending of a weight loss reality program, the present study found mixed support for a newly proposed Affect Model of Social Comparison (AMSC). As predicted, different comparison directions contributed to specific emotions and health behaviors. Those who made more upward health comparisons felt more envy, which in turn contributed to increased health behavioral intent. Hope was also identified as an indirect mediator in the upward health comparison-health behavioral intent relationship. Further, upward comparisons led individuals to consume more healthy snacks, and downward comparisons led individuals to consume more unhealthy snacks. This experiment indexes the importance of discrete emotions in social comparison processes, and highlights the need for research on nuanced comparison behavior that evolves as characters evolve.

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