Proudly moving forward and feeling connected: Adolescents' daily temporal comparisons relate to a desire for growth and sense of relatedness

Emotion. 2020 Dec 31. doi: 10.1037/emo0000920. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Adolescents often compare themselves favorably to others. Although such downward social comparisons make adolescents feel proud, they entail the risk of focusing adolescents on outperforming others rather than on improving themselves. This daily diary study (N = 389 adolescents, ages 11-15) tested the hypothesis that downward temporal comparisons-comparing one's present self favorably to one's past self, rather than to others-may elicit pride while encouraging adolescents to strive for self-improvement rather than superiority. Such a desire for self-improvement may, in turn, cultivate a sense of relatedness. Results show that daily downward and upward comparisons co-occurred with pride and shame, respectively, regardless of whether those comparisons were social or temporal. Importantly, daily downward temporal comparisons (unlike daily downward social comparisons) co-occurred with a desire for self-improvement over superiority as well as with a sense of relatedness. This desire for self-improvement over superiority partially mediated the association between downward temporal comparison and a sense of relatedness. Together, these findings underline the role of social and temporal comparisons in self-conscious emotions and goal pursuit and suggest that temporal comparisons-unlike social comparisons-may help adolescents strive for personal growth and build satisfying relationships. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).