Emotional responses to social comparisons in reality television programming

Nicky Lewis, Andrew J. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In recent years, the viewing of reality television has become increasingly prevalent among television audiences. However, little is known about the psychological processes at work when viewing these programs. This study examined how social comparisons to cast members influenced emotional responses to reality television programming. Participants (N = 231) were cued with a specific comparison target group and placed in a situation of self-image enhancement or threat. Afterwards, participants watched a clip from a reality television program and then reported their emotional reactions to it. The manipulations of comparison target group and self-image affected both the direction of social comparisons made and their associated emotional responses. Participant gender also influenced social comparisons to the cast members and resulting emotional responses to the content. Although we were unable to compare the social comparison-related emotional responses to reality programs with those of scripted programs, the results of this study bring to bear the associations between specific emotional responses and the types of social comparisons that take place when watching reality television programming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-77
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2016


  • Emotions
  • Reality television
  • Social comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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