Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Social Comparison Theory

My PhD will involve, i think, the study of Leon Festinger's lesser known theory, Social Comparison Theory. Festinger is most famous for Cognitive Dissonance Theory, but Social Comparison Theory was another theory developed by Festinger.  Originated in 1954 and then left alone by Festinger, others have developed the theory in their own image.  Buunk and Gibbons (2007) reviewed the current research on social comparison theory and do a good job of contextualising it. The are few resources on SCT although it is still an active area of research.  The best source I have come across is this book,  Suls, J., & Wheeler, L. (2000). Handbook of social comparison: Theory and research: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers New York, NY:  It is quite hard to find but well worth the effort it summaries almost all of the research in the field up to 2000.  Please contact me if you find any useful resources related to SCT.


Suls, J., & Wheeler, L. (2000). Handbook of social comparison: Theory and research: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers New York, NY:

L. Festinger,L (1954). A theory of social comparison processes, Human Relations 1, 117–140

Buunk, A & Gibbons, F (2007). Social comparison: The end of a theory and the emergence of a field, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 102, 3–22.

Taylor, S., & Lobel, M. (1989). Social comparison activity under threat: Downward evaluation and upward contacts. Psychological Review, 96(4), 569-575.

Kruglanski, A., & Mayseless, O. (1990). Classic and current social comparison research: Expanding the perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 108(2), 195-208.

Buunk, B., & Mussweiler, T. (2001). New directions in social comparison research. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31(5), 467-475.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination Theory

Today i eventually managed to track down a copy of Intrinsic Motivation (1975) by Edward Deci. Deci and Ryan are best known for Self Determination Theory which has been applied to many different areas of psychology. Deci and Ryan have in common with Dr Martin Hagger made available many of their published articles on the web. Dr Hagger's articles are here and Deci & Ryan's are here. The copy of the book i got was from my university library so i'm still trying to get a copy to keep! Let me know if you see one!

Monday, 11 May 2009

A successful active travel intervention

McKee et al. (2007) demonstrated that a classroom intervention could result in increased levels of active commuting. This study was concerned primarily with walking to school. The class teacher used the Travelling Green Pack to raise awareness of the benefits of active travel. The results indicated that the children (mean age 9 years) increased distance walked to school significantly from 198m to 772 m, which represents an increase of 389%. This study also reported that car use showed a corresponding fall as the walking to school distance increased during the study. McKee et al reported that after the study intervention that the mean distance pupils walked to school was almost 800m, this took the child on average 12 minutes to walk which as a return journey would equate to 24 minutes of PA per day. This is almost 50% of the PA guidelines for children. The study illustrated the positive effect that active travel can have for children in trying to achieve the current PA recommendations. This appears to be a useful resource to us in the classroom to try and encourage active travel.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

How much physical activity do we need?

How much physical activity should you accumulate? In the UK the recommended level for adults is 5 days at least 30 mins moderate/vigorous intensity, this can be accumulated in 10 min blocks throughout the day. This recommendation, which is not often made clear is the minimum. The report is available here. I find it easier to accumulate my 30 mins doing cycling, swimming or running, but walking is the most easily accessible exercise. More on the effectiveness of walking as exercise to follow.

Self Determination Theory

My project for the summer (or as we call it in Scotland the time when it’s a bit hotter when it rains) is to learn more about Self Determination Theory. Specifically, it’s application to physical activity adherence research. This is made easier by the fact that one of the most prolific writers in the area Dr Martin Hagger generously has a site where you can read most of his publication without the usually required journal subscriptions. Seems to me a bit obvious really, if you want to educate you need to let as many people as possible read your work. Dr Hagger's publications can be read and downloaded here. He also has published several books which i would also highly recommend. If you have any good links for Self Determination Theory please post them here and I will work through them.

Evidence that PA is good for you!

Ok, so physical activity is good for you! Thats not rocket science but where do you go to get good recent evidence to convince the refuseniks? Well here are two extensive summaries of the current existing evidence. The UK governments Foresight Report into obesity and the USA governments review of physical activity both reliable and extensive reviews of the evidence. Now i just need to finish reading them!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Active Travel National Conference

Wednesday sees me off to the second Active Travel National Conference in Perth, Scotland. Lots of stuff i'm interested in and also quite relevant as i attempt to convince my daughters school to lift its ban on cycling. Yes that's correct, they dont let children cycle to school as its unsafe! Dying of obesity related diseases in later life is apparently fine, but cycling to school is out. We are at least some way to changing the policy so the conference should help me to load up on amnuition. In terms of cycling the risk of fatality is fairly low as risks go, Macdonald (2006) reported that the health benefits gained from daily or regular cycling outweighed the loss of life years through cycling fatalities by a factor of around 20 to one. Another study, Wardlaw (2002) reported that the actual risk is one cyclist death per 33 million kilometres of cycling.

Macdonald, B. (2006). Valuing the benefits of cycling. Draft Report to Cycling England. SQW Ltd.
Wardlaw, M. (2002). Assessing the actual risks faced by cyclists. Traffic engineering & control, 43(11), 420-424

Power Plates and weight loss

The Daily Mail who appear to get almost anything to do with science wrong, report that Power Plates can help with weight loss better than aerobics or swimming. The Daily Mail article is here whilst the excellent Obesity Panacea Blog review the evidence on their site.