Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (2022)

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (1)Social comparison is a normal behavior strategy where we seek to better understand our status relating to ability, opinion, emotional reaction, and more, by comparing ourselves to other people.

Social comparison can be useful because it provides us with a way to determine if we are ‘on track,’ but it can also be extremely harmful and result in negative thoughts and behaviors.

Instead of the desired effect, where we assess our abilities and opinions against a realistic, achievable benchmark (or role model), social comparisons can result in the opposite outcome, where we compare our behavior to an unrealistic benchmark and subsequently develop low self-esteem.

In this article, we will explore social comparison theory and how our social comparisons can lead to positive and negative emotions. We’ll learn about different types of social comparison theories and how different comparisons result in different emotional states.

Afterward, we’ll examine the relationship between depression and social comparison, as well as social media and social comparison. In conclusion, we’ll offer a better strategy, one that we think supersedes social comparison behaviors and is more powerful: gratitude.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients build healthy, life-enriching relationships.

This Article Contains:

  • Social Comparison Theory Defined
  • History of Social Comparison Theory
  • Summary of Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory
  • The Direction of Social Comparison
  • Contrast vs. Assimilation
  • 12 Real-Life Examples
  • Measuring Social Comparison: A Scale
  • Social Comparison and Depression
  • The Link Between Social Media and Self-Esteem
  • A Better Approach: Gratitude
  • A Take-Home Message
  • References

Social Comparison Theory Defined

How many times have you compared yourself to your friends or colleagues using a trait that you consider desirable, for example, money or success? In literature, this comparison is known as social comparison.

Social comparison refers to a behavior where we compare certain aspects of ourselves (e.g., our behavior, opinions, status, and success) to other people so that we have a better assessment of ourselves (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007).

Initially, social comparison theory only included comparisons of opinions and abilities (Festinger, 1954), but since then, the theory has expanded to include other aspects such as emotions (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999; Schachter, 1959).

Festinger (1954) proposed that social comparison was driven by a need to evaluate ourselves so that we had more information about ourselves; however, more recent theory suggests that social comparison is motivated by three drives (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999):

  • Self-evaluation
  • Self-improvement
  • Self-enhancement

The concept of social comparison has expanded dramatically from a limited theory that only addressed opinions and abilities to include more abstract concepts such as job satisfaction and overall life success.

History of Social Comparison Theory

The concept of social comparison was first termed and fully developed by Festinger (1954), who hypothesized that we are unable to self-judge our opinions and abilities accurately and instead rely on comparing ourselves to other people to form an evaluation.

These assessments created through comparisons with other people are referred to as social comparisons. Festinger (1954) argued that we are driven to assess our abilities and opinions to:

  1. Determine whether we are good enough (abilities) or correct (opinions)
  2. Set a benchmark of what we aim to achieve

This benchmark is referred to as the level of aspiration.

Summary of Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (2)In his 1954 paper, Festinger outlined nine hypotheses about our behavior and motivations when using social comparisons under different scenarios.

Festinger’s argument begins with the initial hypothesis that evaluating our skills and opinions is extremely important for our survival. Good examples of survival behaviors and beliefs include running quickly (so that you can outrun a lion) and having an opinion about how newly discovered food should be eaten.

These types of views and behaviors are not that relevant to current modern life, but we can easily think of examples of behaviors and opinions that are still important; for example, how would you know if you worked a sufficient number of hours in a day? Or how do you know that your opinion about climate change is correct?

Subjective versus objective metrics

For some comparisons, we can easily make these comparisons reliably by using an objective metric; for example, we could objectively evaluate our sporting performance based on the time taken to run a mile, the pounds that we can lift, or the number of times that we win against our opponent. For other comparisons, however, it is not so easy, because an objective metric doesn’t exist.

For example, what would make a political opinion ‘correct?’ How would I know if I am ‘more honest’ than other people? For these comparisons, we need to rely on more subjective metrics.

Festinger was more interested in comparisons that used objective metrics; however, he recognized that most comparisons in the real world were a mix of objective and subjective metrics.

In instances where an objective metric doesn’t exist, we can rely on either self-evaluation or social evaluation. However, these two types of assessments are not equally useful.

Self-evaluations are problematic because our assessments of our skills and opinions are unstable and unreliable. The instability of our self-assessments is due to the volatility of our self-imposed benchmarks.

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For example, the benchmark that I set for myself today for being ‘productive’ might differ from my benchmark tomorrow. As a consequence, my self-assessments of my level of productivity keep changing. In contrast, social evaluations are more stable and informative, and we tend to prefer them to self-assessments.

Different types of social evaluations

Not all social evaluations are equal. When making a social evaluation, we are unlikely to compare ourselves with a randomly chosen individual; instead, we are inclined to draw comparisons with individuals whose ability or opinion we judge as being close to our own.

For example, I would need to choose an appropriate comparison person when making a meaningful judgment about my daily work productivity. Someone similar to me would be a good example (e.g., approximately the same age and education without children), and I would not compare myself against someone exceptionally dissimilar (e.g., a parent who is trying to work while keeping an eye on their children).

These types of comparisons with similar individuals yield more useful, reliable assessments.

But what if a similarly skilled individual does not exist for comparison purposes? If the only other option is to compare ourselves to someone whose skill level or opinion is exceptionally different from our own, then we seem to avoid making a comparison at all.

Festinger (1954) argued that the level of aspiration that we use is more stable when we use similarly skilled individuals for comparison than when we compare ourselves to individuals whose skills/opinions differ significantly from our own.

Consequences of differences between us and others

If we find that our ability/opinion is highly similar to the benchmark of perceived-to-be-similar individuals, then we feel more emboldened and confident in our abilities/opinions.

If the evaluation highlights that we are performing poorly, then there are two possible outcomes. First, we may aim to improve our behavior so that we are more similar to the other individuals. Second, we may strive to influence the other individuals so that they become more similar to us (this tactic is more apt when trying to change opinions than abilities).

For example, if my opinion differs greatly from individuals similar to me, then I will either change my opinion to be more in line with them, or I will try to change their views so that they are more in line with mine.

Either way, the net result is that the group members become more similar.

Group dynamics

Not all group members are included in comparisons. Within a group, there may be an individual whose ability or opinion diverges significantly from the other members.

In such instances, this individual is no longer considered a viable comparison and is no longer included in comparisons. Festinger (1954) argued that the outcome is even more severe in cases when we are comparing opinions, because this divergent individual poses such a threat to our evaluation of our own views that we consider them removed from the group and will no longer talk to them.

Group membership plays an essential role in evaluations. When group membership and conforming to group norms are desirable, then we are more likely to reject members who are very different from us. These members are no longer included in our social comparisons. If we feel that the quality that is being compared is important, then we are also more motivated to conform to the group’s behaviors and opinions.

Furthermore, group members who perform most similar to the group norm are the least motivated to change their behavior or opinion away from the accepted standard and, instead, are more motivated to change the behavior and opinions of other group members.

When an individual has a view or an ability that is extremely divergent from the group, then that individual might be forced to leave the group in favor of another one, or the original group might split into a small subgroup.

But what would happen if a second comparison group doesn’t exist, or if the original group is a highly desirable one? Of the possible outcomes that Festinger (1954) presents, the most interesting are the following:

If the individual and the group differ in opinion, it is very likely that the individual’s opinion will change and conform to that of the group.

If the individual and the group differ in ability, then it is unlikely that the ability level will change; instead, the individual will develop feelings of inferiority.

It should be immediately evident that the origin of social comparison theory is quite complex. Social comparison has grown substantially in the last 50 years, and there has been a great deal of empirical research on the impact of different types of comparisons.

The Direction of Social Comparison

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (3)Social comparisons are described as either upward or downward.

When we engage in upward social comparison, we compare ourselves to someone who is (perceived to be or performing) better than we are.

In contrast, when we engage in downward social comparison, we compare ourselves to someone who is (perceived to be or performing) worse than we are.

The direction of the comparison doesn’t guarantee the direction of the outcome. Both types of social comparison can result in negative and positive effects.

Upward social comparison

“He is so much happier and more successful than I am.

The typical inclination is to compare upward. When asked who individuals wanted to compare themselves with, the majority chose people who achieve higher scores (Wheeler, 1966).

This isn’t surprising. Most of us would want to know how we are performing compared to others who appear to be better off. This upward comparison is also referred to as an upward drive (Festinger, 1954).

The effect of upward social comparison is variable. Sometimes upward social comparison can be very motivating; for example, we might aspire to follow in the footsteps of a role model.

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The following factors moderate the strength of the upward drive:

  • Upward drive is stronger when the comparison is made covertly rather than overtly.
    • For example, I am more motivated to improve my ability/skills when I can make comparisons privately. But I am less motivated if I must make these comparisons in person by coming in contact with the comparison person.
  • Upward drive is stronger when the individual is not at risk of being judged as inferior.
    • For example, I am more motivated to improve my ability/skills when I don’t feel like the comparison person will treat me poorly or like I am inferior. I am less motivated when the comparison person treats me poorly.
  • Upward drive is stronger when the individual is invested in the trait or ability.
    • For example, my upward drive is stronger for topics that interest me. But I have little upward drive for topics that are of no interest to me.

However, we are not always motivated to improve our ability/skill/opinion after upward social comparison, and upward social comparison can have detrimental effects. Here are some examples where an upward social comparison is not productive and results in negative behaviors:

  • Festinger (1954) suggests that when the comparison person is deemed superior or very different to us, then we might consider them not to be a viable comparison.
  • In more extreme examples, we may even exclude these individuals from our social group (Festinger, 1954) or isolate ourselves from others (Tesser, 1988).
  • Sometimes we may choose to handicap ourselves by choosing someone who is extremely superior (Shepperd & Taylor, 1999).
  • We may sabotage the efforts of other people so that they perform less well (Pemberton & Sedikides, 2001).
  • We may develop feelings of inferiority because we are reminded that we are inferior, leading to negative emotions such as depression (Marsh & Parker, 1984).

Downward social comparison

“At least I didn’t embarrass myself in front of everyone like that girl.

In downward social comparisons, we compare ourselves to other people who are worse off.

This is a common experience, and we’ve all had the experience of reassuring ourselves of our behavior by comparing ourselves with someone else. Although downward social comparison might seem like a quick and dirty move to boost our self-esteem, the effects of downward social comparisons are variable and can also result in negative outcomes.

We’re more likely to engage in downward social comparisons in situations where our sense of self and wellbeing is under threat; these downward social comparisons make us feel better about ourselves (Wills, 1981).

Downward social comparisons also result in various other positive outcomes (Amoroso & Walters, 1969; Gibbons, 1986; Buunk & Gibbons, 2007) such as:

  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Experiencing positive emotions such as happiness
  • Reducing anxiety

Some researchers have argued that the effect of social comparisons – upward or downward – depends on the individual. The direction of the comparison does not guarantee only positive or negative outcomes.

With upward social comparisons, we can become motivated to strive toward new achievements because someone like us has reached these achievements too; however, we might also be constantly reminded that we are inferior to someone else.

Social comparison theory hypothesizes that downward social comparisons should elevate how we feel about our current state, and we can take comfort in knowing that we could be worse off.

However, downward social comparisons might cause us unhappiness because we are reminded that the situation always has the potential to worsen, or we might feel unhappy knowing the situation can become worse.

For example, when cancer patients meet other patients whose illness has progressed further, they reported that they felt threatened. The explanation for these contrary findings is that the other patients, who were worse off, were a reminder that their health could deteriorate (Wood, Taylor, & Lichtman, 1985).

12 Real-Life Examples

“I kind of looked up to him. He was one of the first high-profile sportspeople that was half Japanese. I think to be in the role he is now, and people be telling me that I am the face of Japan’s multiculturalism is something I’ve always dreamed about.”

Naomi Osaka describing how Apolo Ohno is her role model

Each of us has relied on upward or downward social experiences. I’ve provided a list of some everyday examples where we might use comparisons. Perhaps some of these examples resonate with you.

Comparisons about…Upward social comparisonsDownward social comparisons
Sporting performanceMy neighbor inspires me. If he can run a half-marathon, then so can I.I feel happy knowing that I beat my neighbor in the half-marathon.
Physical appearanceMy friend met her target weight. If she can, then so can I.At least I don’t drink as much alcohol as other people I know.
Job performanceMy colleague always manages to balance work and life. I want to achieve that.My other colleague’s situation reminds me to plan my work better so that I’m not in the same position that they’re in.
IntelligenceMy friend is smarter than I am. She just gets it.My colleague struggles all the time with the same topics, whereas it just clicks for me.
RelationshipsCouple Z makes it look so easy. They get along so well and never fight, unlike us.When I see couple X fight, I’m reminded to be grateful for my relationship. It could be a lot worse!
MoneyI want to work hard so that I can earn the same amount as my boss.Before he knew it, he was laid off. At least I have a job, but it could change any day.

These are only a snapshot of some of the examples of social comparison behaviors that we might demonstrate.

Contrast vs. Assimilation

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (4)

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

Desiderata

Upward and downward social comparisons can lead to negative or positive outcomes. The distinction is more nuanced than merely positive and negative outcomes, though. Comparisons can be further classified as contrastive or assimilative.

Contrastive comparisons

Contrastive comparisons further emphasize the difference between the compared persons and us. For upward comparisons, we are seen as more inferior to the comparison person, and for downward comparisons, we are considered as more superior.

Assimilative comparisons

Assimilative comparisons describe comparisons where the compared person’s circumstances could easily be our own.

Upward assimilative comparisons are motivating because we believe that we can achieve the same level of success, whereas downward assimilative comparisons remind us that we could easily do worse.

A good way to think about the relationship between contrastive and assimilative comparisons is that contrast increases the distance between the comparison person and us and assimilation reduces the gap.

Emotions linked to contrastive and assimilative outcomes

Smith (2000) further expands this argument by arguing that:

(a) These contrastive and assimilative outcomes can result in positive and negative feelings specifically.

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(b) These feelings can be directed inward toward ourselves or outward to the compared individual.

Smith (2000) provides an extremely useful figure that we have replicated below.

In downward social comparisons, the comparison person (the ‘other’) always has an outcome that we consider undesirable since their outcome is inferior to our own.

The emotion toward the comparison person that is evoked through the comparison differs for contrastive and assimilative outcomes. In the former, we might feel contempt for them; in the latter, we might feel pity.

In downward social comparisons, the outcomes for us can be desirable or undesirable. Contrastive outcomes result in desirable outcomes for us; we feel pride because we are ‘better.’ Assimilative outcomes remind us that we could be in the same situation as the comparison, and this realization induces fear or worry.

This theory explains why cancer patients felt afraid when they met other cancer patients who were worse off; they had adopted downward assimilative social comparisons.

Downward social comparisons
Contrastive outcomesAssimilative outcomes
OutcomesDesirable outcome for selfDual focusUndesirable outcome for otherUndesirable outcome for selfDual focusUndesirable outcome for other
EmotionsPrideSchadenfreudeContempt/scornFear/worrySympathyPity

Unlike downward social comparison, the comparison person in upward social comparisons always has the desirable outcome; we want to achieve what they have.

For contrastive outcomes, the difference between us and the comparison person is emphasized to such an extent that we feel resentment toward them, and our current state is undesirable, leading to feelings of depression.

Assimilative outcomes are associated with more positive and desirable emotions. We feel admiration for the comparison person and optimism about our own state; we can achieve the same level as them.

Upward social comparisons
Contrastive outcomesAssimilative outcomes
OutcomesUndesirable outcome for selfDual focusDesirable outcome for otherDesirable outcome for selfDual focusDesirable outcome for other
EmotionsDepression/shameEnvyResentmentOptimismInspirationAdmiration

Measuring Social Comparison: A Scale

In early research, social comparison was measured using Likert scales and open-ended questions in an interview (Wood et al., 1985).

Wood et al. (1985) reported a group of patients who were diagnosed with cancer and asked them how much contact they had with other patients, whether they compared their current situation with that of other people, and then to evaluate how well they were coping in comparison.

Although the authors were expecting evidence of social comparisons to arise from the closed questions, instead they found many instances of spontaneous mentioning of social comparisons during the interview.

It appeared that the participants were less willing to openly declare in the questionnaire that they engaged in social comparisons, but this behavior was evident in their interviews.

Although open-ended interviews can yield a lot of information, qualitative data can be challenging to analyze. In such situations, the open-ended interview would be transcribed and then coded by two independent coders using a logbook.

Any disagreements in the coding would need to be resolved before coding continued. Although data collected in this manner is extremely useful, there is no doubt that the analysis is laborious and time consuming.

Gibbons and Buunk (1999) have done the hard work for us and developed the Iowa-Netherlands Comparison Orientation Measure, which consists of 11 scale items that ask about social comparison. Of the 11 items, 6 of the questions ask about ability.

For example:

  • I always pay a lot of attention to how I do things compared to how others do things.

The remaining five items ask about opinions. For example:

  • I always like to know what others in a similar situation would do.

For each item, participants indicate their level of agreement on a five-point scale, ranging from ‘I disagree strongly’ to ‘I agree strongly.’ The scale has high reliability (ranging between .78 to .85 for various samples), indicating that the measurements are stable.

Despite the high reliability, researchers accept and recognize that admitting making social comparisons is considered very undesirable; for these reasons, it is probably always better to follow up any assessment with an open-ended interview or questions to probe some of the responses on the scale (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007).

Social Comparison and Depression

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (5)Although we all engage in social comparison behaviors, we might do so at varying rates. Some people engage in comparisons more often than others.

Buunk and Gibbons (2007) argue that people with certain personality types are more likely to make social comparisons.

Specifically, individuals with the following traits are more likely to engage in social comparison (Buunk & Gibbons, 2007):

  • Increased public and private self-consciousness
  • More empathy and sensitivity toward others
  • An interest in how other people feel
  • High narcissism
  • Low self-esteem
  • High neuroticism

Upward social comparison was thought to result in more negative feelings (e.g., shame, inferiority); the research, however, is equivocal. Upward social comparison can be helpful because it allows for self-enhancement; for example, we might feel motivated to improve our performance (Collins, 1996).

For people with depression, social comparison can have mixed effects. Clinically depressed individuals who reported that they often used social comparisons experience a positive change in their mood when their levels of aspirations were easily achievable (i.e., assimilative upward social comparison).

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However, when the level of aspiration/the comparison person was challenging to achieve (i.e., contrastive social comparison), then they experienced an adverse change in their mood (Buunk & Brenninkmeijer, 2001).

These findings suggest that the choice of comparison person or level of aspiration is important for certain populations. There is additional evidence that compared to individuals who engage in fewer social comparisons, individuals who engage in more social comparisons respond more negatively to downward social comparisons (e.g., Buunk, Oldersma, & De Dreu, 2001).

Their greater response to downward social comparisons is not echoed in upward social comparisons. The authors posit that the downward social comparisons remind the participants of their own situation, consequently increasing their level of unhappiness.

The Link Between Social Media and Self-Esteem

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (6)Social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, are good examples of modern-day opportunities for social comparison.

We can browse our friends’ photographs, read updates about their lives, and learn about big and special events.

Social media posts, however, are overwhelming, and as a result, we are often engaging in upward social comparisons. There is some evidence that increased use of social media is associated with more negative feelings.

One explanation is that we engage in more upward social comparisons on social media than we would in real life, which results in feelings of inferiority and envy. Some evidence exists that the immediate use of social media results in:

  • Increased depressive symptoms (Feinstein et al., 2013)
  • Experience of depressive episodes three weeks later (Feinstein et al., 2013)
  • Lower self-esteem (de Vries & Kühne, 2015; Liu et al., 2017)
  • Lower body image (de Vries & Kühne, 2015; Liu et al., 2017)

The relationship between upward social comparison on social media and depression is more complicated than it appears. The presence of optimism further mediates this relationship.

Participants with high optimism experienced a weaker relationship between using social media and symptoms of depression; optimism buttressed them from the harmful effects of upward social comparison on social media. For participants with low optimism, the adverse effects of upward social comparison were more pronounced. These individuals also reported more resultant depressive symptoms (Liu et al., 2017).

A Better Approach: Gratitude

Social Comparison Theory & 12 Real-Life Examples (7)

“Stop comparing yourself to other people, just choose to be happy and live your own life.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

One of the challenges of social comparison theory is deciding who we’re going to compare ourselves to, especially since the outcome of the social comparison differs according to the type of comparison (contrastive/assimilative), as well as our characteristics.

This can be especially important for people who are transitioning from one stage of their lives to another and don’t know whether they are performing at the optimal level.

For example, students starting college might feel overwhelmed with academic and social expectations, and graduates starting their first job might also rely on social comparisons as a way to judge their performance. For more on this, have a look at our post on Positive Transitioning After School.

Unfortunately, these comparisons might be unrealistic or encourage unsustainable behaviors. Knowing this, what can we do instead?

Develop gratitude

One answer is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. This is easier said than done. However, there is ample evidence that focusing on gratitude, rather than negative circumstances, neutral events that are neither positive nor negative, or downward social comparisons, leads to:

  • Increased positive affect
  • Better sleep
  • Higher levels of optimism (which is a buffer against the negative effects of downward social comparisons)
  • More prosocial behavior (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)

To develop gratitude, follow the procedure used by Emmons and McCullough (2003):

  • Make a list of five things that you are grateful for in your life.
  • Try not to repeat items.
  • Don’t worry if the items are big or small.
  • Do this exercise every day.

If you need help finding items, think back to something that has happened in the last week that you’re grateful for.

Change the comparison person from a person to a period

If you struggle to refrain from social comparisons, try to reframe the social comparisons so that you can express gratitude. Also, when trying to identify someone as a comparison person, instead, use an ‘abstract’ comparison point like the one that Adler and Fagley (2005) used when measuring appreciation:

  • I reflect on the worst times in my life to help me realize how fortunate I am now.”

In this item, the reference point is a previous, more negative time of one’s life. Using this comparison point, instead of a different person, might help you focus on the positive aspects of your life currently.

A Take-Home Message

Social comparisons are normal. We all engage in these behaviors. Sometimes these behaviors make us feel better and can be motivating; however, they can also lead to detrimental side effects.

The research about social comparisons is complex and equivocal. Still, one pattern seems clear: the outcome of social comparisons hinges on who we are, who we are comparing ourselves to, and what we want from the comparison.

There are many more beneficial ways to develop self-esteem, and chasing after someone else’s successes so that you can feel proud of yourself is hardly healthy. Each of us was born in a unique set of circumstances, in a unique environment, and our successes are not limited by the people who we compare ourselves to. Instead, we should be grateful for what we have achieved and grateful that we can continue to achieve what we desire.

Adopting this attitude can be difficult, especially when we feel uncertain, stressed out, or afraid. But the comparison point in a gratitude exercise remains constant despite our surroundings and circumstances, and in that, we can feel content.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free.

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FAQs

What is an example of social comparison theory? ›

For example, a music student might compare herself to the star student of the class. If she finds that her abilities do not measure up to her peer's talents, she might be driven to achieve more and improve her abilities.

Why is social comparison important to human behavior? ›

We use social comparison to determine the accuracy and appropriateness of our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When we are able to compare ourselves favorably with others through downward social comparison, we feel good about ourselves.

How would you relate the social comparison theory and the use of social media? ›

Social Comparison Theory and Social Media

Social media magnifies the impact of social comparison. And therefore, it magnifies the negative effects on teen well-being. Technology-based social comparison is associated with depressive symptoms among adolescents, particularly females.

What are the three types of social comparisons? ›

Three types of social comparison are proposed in the theory: (a) upward social comparison, or comparing oneself with someone judged to be better than oneself (e.g., by having more wealth or material goods, higher social standing, greater physical attractiveness); (b) downward social comparison, or comparing oneself ...

What is social comparison theory and how does it apply to advertising? ›

Social comparison theory (Festinger 1954) is directly applicable to the notion that consumers compare themselves with persons portrayed in ads. Festinger proposed that humans have a drive to evaluate them- selves and that they evaluate themselves by comparison with others when nonsocial means are unavailable.

Which theory is also known as social comparison theory? ›

Social Comparison: Basics

In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger hypothesized that people compare themselves to others in order to fulfill a basic human desire: the need for self-evaluation. He called this process social comparison theory.

What are types of social comparison? ›

There are two major types of social comparison: upward comparison, when people compare themselves to people who are better than they are, and downward comparison, when people compare themselves to those who are less proficient than they are. Both upward and downward comparisons have strengths and weaknesses.

What can the social comparison theory benefit you positively? ›

Upward social comparison was thought to result in more negative feelings (e.g., shame, inferiority); the research, however, is equivocal. Upward social comparison can be helpful because it allows for self-enhancement; for example, we might feel motivated to improve our performance (Collins, 1996).

Why is social comparison important? ›

Intuitively, it seems that social comparison plays an important role in allowing people to both learn about themselves and assess their social environment. Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory captures this phenomenon, proposing that people continuously compare their own situation to that of their peers.

Why do people use social comparison on Instagram? ›

In addition, the study's findings suggest that the outcomes of social comparison on Instagram are a function of user activities. In other words, it was found that looking at other people's status updates and commenting on other people's photos/videos were strongly associated with upward social comparison.

How social media makes us compare our lives with others? ›

As social media sites update, they become more interactive and more “addicting,” and the opportunity for social comparison increases. This also increases the negative outcomes of self comparison: depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, poor body image, and disordered eating.

Which of the following is an example of downward social comparison? ›

In contrast, downward social comparisons involve comparing oneself to someone else perceived as “lesser” or “worse”. For example, this could look like reading a post about someone moving to a new house or apartment and thinking “my house is so much larger/more attractive/more expensive etc. than their house is”.

What is social comparison in your own words? ›

Social comparison is the act of contrasting one's own life with the lives of other people as they are publicly represented.

What is social comparison essay? ›

In social comparison theory, people are often comparing themselves to others. Upward social comparison occurs when an individual is comparing themselves to someone more successful than they are in aspects of abilities and skills.

How social comparisons affect self concept? ›

Upward and Downward Comparisons Influence Our Self-Esteem

When we are able to compare ourselves favorably with others, we feel good about ourselves, but when the outcome of comparison suggests that others are better or better off than we are, then our self-esteem is likely to suffer.

What is social comparison theory in marketing? ›

Social comparison theory itself has enabled marketers to understand better several types of marketing phenomenon, including comparing one's physical attractiveness to advertising models (Martin and Kennedy 1993, 1994; Richins 1991), comparison of material possessions (Richins 1992), and consumer sensitivity to social ...

What is social comparison in marketing? ›

Social Comparison Theory

The theory is a term referring to the “process through which people come to know themselves by evaluating their own attitudes, abilities, and beliefs in comparison with others” (Cherry, n.d.). Initially, the theory focused on the drive within people to gain self-evaluations.

When we engage in social comparisons we might be? ›

When one engages in social comparison, they are usually attempting (consciously or subconsciously) to self-evaluate or self-enhance. Self-evaluation via the this theory takes place when they choose to compare themselves to someone to gain a better sense of themselves, and where they are in their lives.

How does social comparison affect child self-concept? ›

For example, self-esteem can go up or down based of how much others pay attention to one person. The second idea is that comparison of others can affect self-esteem. For example, if the group is more successful than the individual the individual will develop a negative self- esteem.

How do you deal with social comparison? ›

I want to stop comparing myself to others: what do I do?
  1. Be aware of your triggers and avoid them. ...
  2. Limit your time on social media. ...
  3. Avoid comparing other peoples' "outsides" to your own "insides" ...
  4. Remind yourself that "money doesn't buy happiness" ...
  5. Count your blessings. ...
  6. Use comparison as motivation. ...
  7. Focus on your strengths.
8 Feb 2022

Who invented the comparison theory? ›

Introduction. Social comparison theory was first proposed by Leon Festinger in 1954 and states that individuals are continually evaluating themselves in order to assess their own standing on a wide range of characteristics. Festinger's original theory was based on insight.

What is the social comparison scale? ›

The INCOM is an 11-item measure of one's tendency to make social comparisons. The scale includes such items as: “I always like to know what others in a similar situation would do.” Response choices range from 1 (disagree strongly) to 5 (agree strongly). Higher scores indicate more of a tendency to socially compare.

Why does social comparison affect self-esteem? ›

Social comparison is a form of sociological self-esteem, where we derive our sense of self through comparing ourselves with others (Festinger, 1954). Festinger argued people have a tendency to make downward social comparisons with those who are worse off or less skilled than them, and this can raise their self-esteem.

What are the three primary motivations for social comparisons? ›

We want to feel like we know ourselves. Likely to protect self-concept from change. -We want to feel good about ourselves. Self-enhancement: desire to establish and maintain a positive view of ourselves.

Is social comparison good or bad? ›

People who have higher self-esteem and fewer stressors in their lives tend to fare better with social comparisons. For example, generally speaking, when we make downward social comparisons and compare ourselves to those who are less well-off, it generally makes us feel better.

How do you think that social comparison can benefit our interpersonal relationships? ›

Downward comparison will make people more cooperative. Compared with those who are ranked lower, People who are ranked higher are more willing to cooperate. Whether or not the comparison others is the person participating the later cooperation task, this phenomenon exists.

Why do we compare our lives to others? ›

Comparisons Enable Growth

Comparisons allow us to form a baseline for where we are in life, and where we want to be. They allow us to take stock of and calibrate ourselves against our peers, against our fellow students, against our friends and colleagues, and against the people we look up to.

How does social comparison affect mental health? ›

Individuals with greater social comparison orientation derived from low self-esteem have worse mental health, as they are more likely to hurt themselves psychologically (Jang et al. 2016). SNSs can facilitate upward social comparison and negatively influence individuals' perceived social support.

What is negative social comparison? ›

Negative social comparisons are fueled by the use of cognitive distortions. These are negatively skewed ways of thinking in terms of the available evidence. Cognitive distortions add to the intensity of various difficult mood states such as depression, anxiety, anger, frustration and guilt.

How is social comparison theory relevant to the formation of an individual's social identity? ›

According to Social Comparison Theory, humans tend to continuously compare themselves with others (Festinger, 1954) and their social identity is connected to these comparisons (see Hogg, 2000) .

How Instagram affect your daily life? ›

Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems.

How social media affects our lives? ›

The negative aspects of social media

However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.

How social media Affects Students mental health? ›

A 2019 study suggested that teenagers who use social media for more than 3 hours daily are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and antisocial behavior.

Why do people compare problems? ›

People are simply wired to notice what other people are experiencing and then consider how it compares to their own situation. And in some cases, it can actually have a positive effect, including: Comparisons may help you feel gratitude for your own life. It may help you consider options and think about what you want.

How many people compare themselves to celebrities on social media? ›

Nearly two-thirds (64%) compare themselves with their current friend groups and family members on social media, while 48% often obsess over celebrity profiles online. But while 22% feel inspired when using social media, a quarter admit to feeling self-conscious.

How can I not compare my life on social media? ›

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to People On Social Media
  1. Realize that social media is not reality.
  2. Make social media sociable.
  3. Curate your feed.
  4. Confront the comparison.
  5. Reduce the time you spend on social media.

What is an example of upward social comparison? ›

Upward Comparison

Once you have a good understanding of what you are capable of, you might then begin comparing your performance to other people that you know. You might immediately think of a friend who plays on his school's basketball team. This is an example of upward social comparison.

Which person is making a downward social comparison? ›

Downward social comparison is a defensive tendency that is used as a means of self-evaluation. When a person looks to another individual or group that they consider to be worse off than themselves in order to feel better about their self or personal situation, they are making a downward social comparison.

Which kind of social comparison Do you have upward or downward? ›

Upward comparison occurs when people compare themselves to someone they perceive to be superior (Wheeler, 1966), whereas a downward comparison is defined by making a comparison with someone perceived to be inferior (Wills, 1981).

What are the three types of social comparisons? ›

Three types of social comparison are proposed in the theory: (a) upward social comparison, or comparing oneself with someone judged to be better than oneself (e.g., by having more wealth or material goods, higher social standing, greater physical attractiveness); (b) downward social comparison, or comparing oneself ...

How would you relate the social comparison theory and the use of social media? ›

Social Comparison Theory and Social Media

Social media magnifies the impact of social comparison. And therefore, it magnifies the negative effects on teen well-being. Technology-based social comparison is associated with depressive symptoms among adolescents, particularly females.

What is social comparison quizlet? ›

social comparisons are when we compare our abilities/opinions to someone similar to us. We use social comparisons to reduce uncertainty about our opinions/abilities and know where we stand relative to those we are comparing ourselves to.

Which of the following is an example of a downward comparison quizlet? ›

Downward comparison is when an individual compares themselves to someone who is considered beneath them. An example of this would be when a person who has worked hard to attain some knowledge now views those without that knowledge as inferior.

What is status comparison? ›

STATUS COMPARISON: "A status comparison is comparing your own abilities and status to other people's. "

Which theory is also known as social comparison theory? ›

Social Comparison: Basics

In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger hypothesized that people compare themselves to others in order to fulfill a basic human desire: the need for self-evaluation. He called this process social comparison theory.

What are the example of social self? ›

You might interact with family members, friends on social media, have a meeting with a boss or co-worker, and talk to someone you're interested in dating. All of these moments, and how we feel about ourselves during them, make up our social self. Social self refers to how we perceive ourselves in relation to others.

Why is social comparison theory important? ›

Social comparison can motivate people to improve, but it can also promote judgmental, biased, and overly competitive or superior attitudes.

Why is social comparison important? ›

Intuitively, it seems that social comparison plays an important role in allowing people to both learn about themselves and assess their social environment. Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory captures this phenomenon, proposing that people continuously compare their own situation to that of their peers.

What is social comparison theory and how does it apply to advertising? ›

Social comparison theory (Festinger 1954) is directly applicable to the notion that consumers compare themselves with persons portrayed in ads. Festinger proposed that humans have a drive to evaluate them- selves and that they evaluate themselves by comparison with others when nonsocial means are unavailable.

Which of the following is an example of downward social comparison? ›

In contrast, downward social comparisons involve comparing oneself to someone else perceived as “lesser” or “worse”. For example, this could look like reading a post about someone moving to a new house or apartment and thinking “my house is so much larger/more attractive/more expensive etc. than their house is”.

What is social comparison essay? ›

In social comparison theory, people are often comparing themselves to others. Upward social comparison occurs when an individual is comparing themselves to someone more successful than they are in aspects of abilities and skills.

What is downward social comparison example? ›

When we make downward comparisons, we judge ourselves against people who are less skilled or fortunate than ourselves. For instance, a tween who is struggling in soccer might compare himself to the worst player on the team and think, "Well at least I can block better than he can."

What is an example of upward social comparison? ›

Most likely, upward comparisons depend on one's point of view and preexisting level of confidence. For example, if someone with low self-esteem looks at a picture of someone extremely attractive, they may become upset, and think of how they would never be able to look the same.

Which of the following is an example of downward social comparison? ›

In contrast, downward social comparisons involve comparing oneself to someone else perceived as “lesser” or “worse”. For example, this could look like reading a post about someone moving to a new house or apartment and thinking “my house is so much larger/more attractive/more expensive etc. than their house is”.

Why is social comparison important? ›

Intuitively, it seems that social comparison plays an important role in allowing people to both learn about themselves and assess their social environment. Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory captures this phenomenon, proposing that people continuously compare their own situation to that of their peers.

What is social comparison quizlet? ›

social comparisons are when we compare our abilities/opinions to someone similar to us. We use social comparisons to reduce uncertainty about our opinions/abilities and know where we stand relative to those we are comparing ourselves to.

What is social comparison in your own words? ›

Social comparison is the act of contrasting one's own life with the lives of other people as they are publicly represented.

Which of the following is an example of a downward comparison quizlet? ›

Downward comparison is when an individual compares themselves to someone who is considered beneath them. An example of this would be when a person who has worked hard to attain some knowledge now views those without that knowledge as inferior.

What is social comparison essay? ›

In social comparison theory, people are often comparing themselves to others. Upward social comparison occurs when an individual is comparing themselves to someone more successful than they are in aspects of abilities and skills.

What can the social comparison theory benefit you positively? ›

Upward social comparison was thought to result in more negative feelings (e.g., shame, inferiority); the research, however, is equivocal. Upward social comparison can be helpful because it allows for self-enhancement; for example, we might feel motivated to improve our performance (Collins, 1996).

How does social comparison affect child self-concept? ›

For example, self-esteem can go up or down based of how much others pay attention to one person. The second idea is that comparison of others can affect self-esteem. For example, if the group is more successful than the individual the individual will develop a negative self- esteem.

Who is the founder of social comparison theory? ›

Social comparison theory was first popularized by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954 (Festinger 1954). SCT proposes that there is a primitive drive within individuals to compare themselves with others in order to evaluate their own opinions and abilities.

Is social comparison good or bad? ›

People who have higher self-esteem and fewer stressors in their lives tend to fare better with social comparisons. For example, generally speaking, when we make downward social comparisons and compare ourselves to those who are less well-off, it generally makes us feel better.

How do you deal with social comparison? ›

I want to stop comparing myself to others: what do I do?
  1. Be aware of your triggers and avoid them. ...
  2. Limit your time on social media. ...
  3. Avoid comparing other peoples' "outsides" to your own "insides" ...
  4. Remind yourself that "money doesn't buy happiness" ...
  5. Count your blessings. ...
  6. Use comparison as motivation. ...
  7. Focus on your strengths.
8 Feb 2022

Why do we compare our lives to others? ›

Comparisons Enable Growth

Comparisons allow us to form a baseline for where we are in life, and where we want to be. They allow us to take stock of and calibrate ourselves against our peers, against our fellow students, against our friends and colleagues, and against the people we look up to.

What is social comparison and how does it affect children's self concept quizlet? ›

Social comparison helps with self-concept, it helps them value themselves and abandon the imaginary. it also helps with awareness of prejudice and gender discrimination. an increase in self-understanding and social awareness. What factors help a child become resilient?

What is a benefit of engaging in upward social comparison quizlet? ›

Often we engaged in upward social comparison to improve or motivate ourselves. This can be seen with role models. We strive to become better like those we admire. Downward social comparision is implemented to make ourselves more comfortable or to feel better about ourselves.

Which theory argues that we compare ourselves to others in different situations because there is no given standard against which to measure our abilities and opinions? ›

Social comparison theory is the idea that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. The theory was developed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger.

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