Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Athletic Training (M.A.T.)

Degree Program

Health Professions

First Advisor

Meghan Fox

Academic Year



Context: Being compared to others in social situations is commonplace, whether at work, school, or sport. For example, athletes typically receive feedback on performance from a coach in front of their teammates. Likewise, during lab experiences, students often receive feedback from their instructors in front of their peers. While feedback has been shown to affect mental health, mood, and self-confidence both positively and negatively, the effects of feedback given as a social comparison have not been studied. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess how both positive and negative social comparison affects individuals’ immediate mood and reaction time performance. Methods: Sixty-four participants 18-30 years old were recruited for participation in this research. Participants completed the testing session in pairs, sitting across a table from one another. Each participant was given an iPad in which they completed the UWIST Mood Adjective Checklist (UMACL) and Rosenberg's Self Esteem Survey (RSES) at the beginning of the testing session. Next participants completed the Online Reaction Time Test (ORTT) consisting of 5 trials. Between each trial participants were consistently given either a positive or negative comparison of their speed to their competitors. The positive or negative comparison was randomly pre-designated by the researcher ahead of the testing session and not based on their true performance. Following the ORTT, participants then completed the UMACL a second time to assess mood change. Results: Sixty-four individuals (46 females/14 males) completed this study. Both the positive and negative social comparison groups demonstrated a significant change (p=0.01) in UMACL score pre to post, with both increasing on average 2+ points. While all other analyses of mood and reaction time data were not statistically significant, there was a trend noted for self-esteem's effect on mood. With participants sorted by self-esteem category (low, normal, high), it was noticed that those with low self-esteem demonstrated the greatest change in mood, followed by those with normal self-esteem, and lastly high self-esteem demonstrated the smallest change. Conclusions: Feedback given as a social comparison, regardless of being positive or negative in nature, has a positive effect on an individual’s mood. This may be due to it being perceived as constructive for self-improvement. Self-esteem did show a trend toward significance in its effect on mood, indicating that those in the different self-esteem categories are affected to a different degree by the social comparison. Reaction time performance was not found to be affected by social comparison feedback type; however, given the low stakes of this study it is unclear if higher stakes situations would produce different results. Future research should further examine self-esteem’s effect on mood, performance on high vs. low stakes tasks, as well as feedback sources effect (authority figure vs. peer). Word Count: 450