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John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Body image concerns are pervasive within university environments. In this study, we suggest that high rates of body image concerns among undergraduate women may be due, in part, to a local dominance effect of appearance comparisons. That is, undergraduate women may increasingly make upward social comparisons with a predominantly thin and fit student population, rather than downward or lateral social comparisons with the size-diverse global population. The present research tested for and found evidence of this local dominance effect in Study 1 (N = 50), and tested a construal level manipulation as a moderating factor in Study 2 (N = 421). Results suggest that a concrete mindset leads to a local dominance effect, such that self-evaluations are influenced more by local comparisons than global; however, an abstract mindset appeared to mitigate the harmful effects of appearance comparisons. This research provides preliminary evidence that construal manipulations may serve as an intervention strategy to include in body image interventions in university settings.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bruchmann, K., Osa, M. L., Wong, K., & Baerg, L. (2021). Construal level moderates a local dominance effect of appearance comparisons in undergraduate women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 51(10), 1038–1045. , which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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