The Social-Personality Colloquium Series (Brownbag) was pleased to feature Dr. Stephen Want who gave a talk titled: Is Comparing Ourselves to Other People Mentally Effortful?
For more information, please visit Dr. Want's website or contact him directly.
Dr. Stephen Want
Abstract: We frequently report comparing our abilities, achievements, and appearance with those of other people. But how much mental effort do these comparisons require? One fairly common view is that comparisons are fast and relatively unthinking mental acts, requiring little time or mental effort. In a series of studies, my students and I have tried to test these assumptions by presenting images of thin and attractive models to female undergraduates. Paying sustained attention to such images typically increases unhappiness and decreases the satisfaction that young female undergraduates feel with their own appearance. However, when our participants are mentally preoccupied with other tasks (such as memorizing a complex number) while they look at these images, we find no evidence of these typical detrimental effects. We conclude that perhaps comparisons with other people are actually mentally effortful processes, a viewpoint that has implications for interventions designed to disrupt the influence of thin and attractive media images on young women.