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Upward social comparison- compare to someone who is better than you. Downward social comparison- compare to someone who is worse than you. Social Comparison Direction. Contrast.

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Social Comparison Direction

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Upward social comparison- compare to someone who is better than you.

Downward social comparison- compare to someone who is worse than you.

Social Comparison Direction


Contrast

  • Contrast effect – self is contrasted to the target of comparison and thus self-evaluations move away from the target.


Upward social comparison- compare to someone who is better than you.

Downward social comparison- compare to someone who is worse than you.

Contrast Effect Results

Feel worse

Feel better


Assimilation effects

  • Assimilation effect- Self-evaluations move towards the target of comparison.


Upward social comparison- compare to someone who is better than you.

Downward social comparison- compare to someone who is worse than you.

Assimilation Effect Results

Feel better

Feel worse


Predicting Contrast vs. Assimilation

Tesser’s Self-Evaluation Maintenance Model

Results depend on:

  • Psychological closeness

  • Relevance of the dimension


Self-Evaluation Maintenance

Ratings of Positivity in Perception


Predicting Assimilation vs. Contrast

Lockwood & Kunda (1997)

Results depend on:

  • Relevance

  • Attainability


Lockwood & Kunda (1997)


Automaticity

Automatic processes are well learned and require little or no conscious attention.

Is social comparison an automatic process?

If so, people should be able to compare even under cognitive load.


Gilbert et al. (1995)

  • Schizophrenia detection task

  • First watched confederate perform well (16/18) or poorly (4/18)

  • But confederate was deliberately trained or misinformed, so the comparison is non-diagnostic.

  • Half of the participants are under cognitive load.

  • All participants took test and got 10/18


Gilbert’s theory

No Cognitive load:

Correction:

Comparison is

non-diagnostic

Compare to

confederate

No effect

On self-evaluation

Cognitive load:

Unable to

correct

Effect on

Self-evaluation

Compare to

confederate


Gilbert et al. (1995)

Results (self-evaluations of performance)

Not busy: No significant effect of comparison direction.

Busy: Significant contrast effect.


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