Objective standards are not enough: affective, self-evaluative, and behavioral responses to social comparison information

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Apr;72(4):763-74. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.72.4.763.


Three studies examined affective, self-evaluative, and behavioral responses to objective and social comparison information. In the first study, 437 male and female college undergraduates imagined they had a 30% or 60% risk of experiencing a negative event and that the average person's risk was higher or lower. All types of responses were sensitive to relative but not absolute risk. In the second study, 60 male and female college undergraduates learned that they scored 40% or 60% on a task and that this score was above or below average. Subsequent behaviors whose outcomes depended largely on objective ability still reflected attention to relative standing. This effect of comparative feedback was shown to be mediated by changes in self-evaluation. A third, follow-up study demonstrated that attention to comparative feedback (in the context of objective information) hinges on its desirability. Implications for social comparison theory are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Male
  • Problem Solving
  • Risk
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Perception*