• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Social Comparison Theory

  • By: Cynthia A. Hoffner
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Social comparison involves comparing oneself with others (real or imagined) in order to draw conclusions about the self. This process is a fundamental mechanism by which people come to understand themselves and anticipate what the future will or may hold for them. Social comparison theory has been applied extensively in the domains of physical and mental health, related to issues such as judgments of health risk, health behaviors, and coping with illness. Health-related consequences of social comparisons—including upward, downward, and lateral comparisons—depend on a variety of motivational, cognitive, and emotional factors.

In his initial statement of social comparison theory, Leon Festinger proposed that people engage in social comparison primarily for self-evaluation—to judge their abilities and the accuracy of their attitudes and beliefs. At least two other ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles