Research Topic

Current Perspectives on Social Comparisons and Their Effects

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Social comparisons are a tool people use to infer their self-worth or to judge on their abilities all the time since social information presented by the context often acts as such a default for an evaluation. People often base their self-evaluations on how they stack up against the others as suggested by ...

Social comparisons are a tool people use to infer their self-worth or to judge on their abilities all the time since social information presented by the context often acts as such a default for an evaluation. People often base their self-evaluations on how they stack up against the others as suggested by Festinger in 1954. Clearly, comparative judgment is appealing because it is perceived to be more accurate. Moreover, social comparisons are so pervasive that people attend to them even outside of their conscious awareness. For example, some laboratory-controlled studies have documented that people engage in social comparisons even when the comparison standard is presented subliminally to them.

However, research starting from the 1980s suggested that social comparisons are not so pervasive or unavoidable after all. In achievement settings, it has been argued that the way how people evaluate themselves is contingent on their goals. It has been claimed that focusing on the effort and self-referenced standard (a mastery goal) prevents the influence of social comparisons. Therefore, this line of research provides practical implications and grounds for contextual or cultural considerations. Meanwhile, some recent studies conducted in laboratory and field settings have shown that mastery goals are linked to social comparison processes showing that people focusing on themselves as a standard of evaluation are more selective in their response to social comparisons but are not oblivious to them.

In recent 2017 meta-analysis, Gerber and colleagues argued that there are two streams of social comparisons research: selection and reaction. The former is focused on the choice of a comparison target while the latter examines the effects of comparisons for self-evaluations.

In this Research Topic, we aim to bring researchers from both streams in order to overlook theoretical as well as practical issues concerning social comparisons.

This Research Topic will address the backdrop of the previous studies, using different theoretical perspectives (e.g., downward comparison theory, construal theory, and upward social comparisons, the selective accessibility model, target immediacy, self-evaluation maintenance model) and focus on the social cognitive processes, especially by outlining innovative methods to pursue this goal.

Selected manuscripts will include theoretical and empirical research exploring social cognition and decision making. Both laboratory-based experimental studies and experimental/intervention studies in applied settings and cross-cultural research are welcome, displaying recent and ongoing advances in social cognitive processes pertaining to social comparisons. Manuscripts may report original empirical studies as well as conceptual studies that can inform the innovative methods and frameworks to support the works of practitioners and researchers.

In this Research Topic, we aim to bring together researchers to initiate the examination of the role played by social comparisons processes and their effects on performance and well-being under theoretical and cultural/applied perspectives.


Keywords: Selection and Reaction in Social Comparison, Social comparisons, Perception of competence, achievement, goal, well-being, performance


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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