Humans constantly compare their attributes to different reference frames. According to the theoretical framework of the general comparative-processing model, such comparisons may be perceived as aversive (i.e., appraised as threatening the motives of the comparer) or appetitive (i.e., appraised as consonant with, or positively challenging the motives). However, we lack a measure that adequately captures multi-standard comparisons.
Considering appearance-related comparisons as a relevant comparison domain, we introduce the Comparison Standards Scale for Appearance (CSS-A) that assesses appearance-related social, temporal, counterfactual, criteria-based, and dimensional upward and downward comparisons regarding their (a) frequency, (b) perceived discrepancy, and (c) engendered affect. We administered the CSS-A to 1121 participants, along with measures of appearance social comparison, body satisfaction, physical self-concept, self-esteem, well-being, and depression.
A two-factor model (aversive and appetitive comparisons) fit the data better than a bifactor model with an additional general domain-factor (comparative thinking). The validity of the CSS-A was supported by correlations with external validators beyond appearance, social comparison, and body satisfaction. Aversive comparisons displayed higher associations with most outcomes than appetitive comparisons.
Overall, the CSS-A offers a psychometrically sound and useful measure of multi-standard comparisons.