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Social Comparison

  • By: Joanne V. Wood, Karen Choi & Choi Gaucher
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)
Definition

Social comparison involves thinking about information about one or more other people in relation to the self. People may compare themselves with other people for a variety of reasons: to evaluate themselves (e.g., How good at math am I?), to learn from others (e.g., How much did that person study to ace that exam?), and to feel better about their own situation (e.g., I may not be great at algebra, but I'm better than 70% of my classmates), to name a few.

History and Background

Early research in social psychology on level of aspiration and on reference groups contributed to Leon Festinger's social comparison theory, which he proposed in 1954. Festinger argued that humans have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities. When objective standards for ...

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