Level of Health Threat as a Moderator of Social Comparison Preferences1


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    This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health research grant MH43097. The authors thank Frederick Rhodewalt, Carol Sansone, and Carol Werner for their helpful comments on this research. The authors also thank Steven Barger and Marybeth Hart for their helpful comments on this draft.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Robert T. Croyle, Department of Psychology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.


The effects of level of health threat and level of perceived control on social comparison preferences were examined. Participants were led to believe that they had a cholesterol level that was either in the borderline high-risk range or in the high-risk range. Half the participants were told cholesterol was controllable, whereas the others were told it was not. Participants then rated their interest in 4 types of social comparison information. The results indicated an overall preference for upward comparison to gather useful information. Level of threat interacted significantly with direction of comparison. Comparison preferences were not affected by the control manipulation. The implications of the findings for theories of social comparison as a coping strategy are discussed.