Hedonic consequences of social comparison: a contrast of happy and unhappy people

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1997 Dec;73(6):1141-57. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.73.6.1141.


Two studies tested the hypothesis that self-rated unhappy individuals would be more sensitive to social comparison information than would happy ones. Study 1 showed that whereas unhappy students' affect and self-assessments were heavily affected by a peer who solved anagrams either faster or slower, happy students' responses were affected by the presence of a slower peer only. These between-group differences proved to be largely independent of 2 factors associated with happiness, i.e., self-esteem and optimism. Study 2 showed that whereas the unhappy group's responses to feedback about their own teaching performance were heavily influenced by a peer who performed even better or even worse, happy students' responses again were moderated only by information about inferior peer performance. Implications for our appreciation of the link between cognitive processes and "hedonic" consequences are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Problem Solving
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • Students / psychology