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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2004 Oct;87(4):468-81.

From seeing to being: subliminal social comparisons affect implicit and explicit self-evaluations.

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  • 1Social and Organizational Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands. d.a.stapel@ppsw.rug.nl


The authors hypothesize that social comparisons can have automatic influences on self-perceptions. This was tested by determining whether subliminal exposure to comparison information influences implicit and explicit self-evaluation. Study 1 showed that subliminal exposure to social comparison information increased the accessibility of the self. Study 2 revealed that subliminal exposure to social comparison information resulted in a contrast effect on explicit self-evaluation. Study 3 showed that subliminal exposure to social comparison information affects self-evaluations more easily than it affects mood or evaluations of other people. Studies 4 and 5 replicated these self-evaluation effects and extended them to implicit measures. Study 6 showed that automatic comparisons are responsive to a person's perceptual needs, such that they only occur when people are uncertain about themselves. Implications for theories of social cognition, judgment, and comparison are discussed.

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