Fifty U.S. Olympic speedskating team members, 50 professional models, and 80 college students completed the Body Esteem Scale (BES: Franzoi & Shields, 1984) and indicated for each of the 35 BES items whether when evaluating themselves they most frequently use as a comparison standard same-sex people in general, same-sex professional models, or elite same-sex athletes. Consistent with social comparison theory that people seek similar others as comparison targets, college students were more likely than Olympic athletes or professional models to compare themselves to people in the general population, athletes were more likely than students or models to compare themselves to elite athletes, and models tended to be more likely than students or athletes to compare themselves to elite models. As hypothesized, college women more frequently than college men compared themselves to professional models when evaluating body aspects associated with weight concern and sexual attractiveness, and the more female skaters’ compared themselves to models, the more their negative body attitudes associated with weight concern increased and the more interested they were in changing weight-related body aspects.
Franzoi, Stephen L. and Klaiber, Jeff, "Body Use and Reference Group Impact: With Whom Do We Compare Our Bodies?" (2007). Psychology Faculty Research and Publications. 376.