Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Stetson, Barbara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Salmon, Paul

Committee Member

Salmon, Paul

Committee Member

Mast, Benjamin

Committee Member

DeCaro, Marci

Committee Member

Swank, Ann

Author's Keywords

Physical activity; social comparison; social psychology


The present study examined the impact that attention to social comparison (SC) information may have on consistency in physical activity (PA) behaviors across genders. SC factors, including SC frequency, SC direction and trait tendency to compare (SCO) were assessed within the Dynamic Relapse Model (DRM) as markers of PA consistency within men and women. Participants were N=200 individuals engaging in physical activity at YMCA gym facilities. Data collection utilized cross-sectional methods including anthropomorphic data collection at the point of recruitment and online selfreport measures post-recruitment. High adherence to regular physical activity was observed, with participants reporting infrequent slips in PA (modal PA slips was 0). Participants reported engaging in upward and lateral SC most frequently, with downward SC being infrequently reported. Overall reported engagement in SC was intermittent; the modal frequency of SC engagement was “sometimes.” Specific hypotheses were developed to explore the relationships between SC direction, SCO, gender and PA consistency outcomes. SC direction and frequency were not related to PA consistency. Gender differences were not observed in the frequency of SC constructs or PA consistency, however, a significant interaction was observed between gender and SCO; women’s PA consistency was impacted by SCO to a greater extent than their male counterparts’. A decrease in PA consistency was observed at high levels of SCO in women, but not in men. Study findings suggest that SCO may be most impactful on women’s PA behaviors, regardless of SC direction and frequency. Results identify possible clinical intervention points for the promotion of PA consistency, particularly focusing on women who demonstrate a high tendency to compare themselves (SCO). The study provides support for the contribution of social comparison processes to PA consistency and demonstrates that social cognitions warrant greater exploration within models of health behavior.