Effects of social comparisons with peers on women's body satisfaction and exercise behavior

Int J Eat Disord. 2007 Dec;40(8):740-5. doi: 10.1002/eat.20433.


Objective: Although exposure to thin-ideal females in the media has been shown to increase women's body dissatisfaction, only a few studies have examined the effects of comparisons with peers, and no prior work has studied the effects of peer comparisons in a naturalistic setting or on objective behavior.

Method: Female undergraduates (n = 45) in a campus gym who exercised on a target apparatus were assigned to have a fit-peer, unfit-peer, or no-peer (control) exercise within their view on a nearby apparatus. Objective time spent exercising and body satisfaction reports were collected.

Results: Exposure to a fit peer had undermining effects on women's body satisfaction and exercise duration, whereas an unfit peer produced no compensating greater body satisfaction but did elicit longer exercise duration relative to controls.

Conclusion: Incidental comparisons with fit versus unfit peers can affect women's body satisfaction and fitness-related behavior in a naturalistic setting.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Image*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fitness Centers
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Peer Group*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Physical Fitness / psychology
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Environment*
  • Students / psychology
  • Thinness / psychology