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 ...

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