What Is Social Comparison Theory?

Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.

Recent posts on Social Comparison Theory

F.J.Ninivaggi MD

"Asmita": An Eastern Perspective on Narcissism

Narcissism exists in the Himalayas as "asmita." Who knew?

Does Your Partner View You as an Arm Charm? 3 Ways to Tell

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on February 01, 2018 in Why Bad Looks Good
Does your partner take you out to “show you off?” Is he interested in you, or the way you make him look? Beware: you might be an arm charm.

Does Using Social Media Make You Lonely?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on January 24, 2018 in Talking Apes
Social media use can increase feelings of connectedness or of loneliness, depending on what you do when you're online.

The Unsettling Truth About What’s Hurting Today’s Students

A new study affirms that the pressure to be perfect is doing a number on today’s students. Here's what we can do about it.

Look Closer: How to Spot Human Trafficking Victims

Human trafficking is an insidious epidemic, but it is not invisible. They key is knowing what to look for, and where to look.

How Therapy Works: What it Means to ‘Process an Issue’

By Noam Shpancer Ph.D. on January 03, 2018 in Insight Therapy
People often are advised to go to therapy to “process” some issue. But what does “processing an issue” actually mean?

Nurturing The “Better Angels Of Our Nature”

If we fully embrace ethical values that most people would actually agree to (e.g., the Golden Rule), we might be able to better steer this ship that has steered well off course.
mirc3a/Shutterstock

Are Other People Really Having More Fun Than We Are?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on December 28, 2017 in Media Spotlight
Are other people really having more fun than you are? New research explores the persistent bias that can shape how we view our own social lives compared to others we know.

The Open Book: What Your Reading Choices Say About You

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on December 27, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
You are what you read. Your choice in plot and complexity speaks volumes about who you are and how you think.

Tax Bill Blowback

By David P. Barash Ph.D. on December 22, 2017 in Pura Vida
Pundits have been busy opining about the impact of the newly passed tax bill. They've ignored the impact of the psychology of envy and of relative good fortune.

A Gameplan for Combating Oppression

How work on race can inform efforts to combat class divisions.

Can Money Buy You Happiness?

By Amie M. Gordon, Ph.D. on December 14, 2017 in Between You and Me
Money can buy happiness, if you spend it right. Research shows there are more benefits to spending money on experiences than material goods. Here are three reasons why.
Zamurovic Photography/Shutterstock

Making Peace with the End of the Year

By Tara Well Ph.D. on December 12, 2017 in The Clarity
Feeling like you're running out time? A few tips for successfully closing out the year and find peace.

Is Facebook Bad for You?

Find out if the way you use Facebook is helping or hurting your happiness.

Face Time: What Expression Makes the Best First Impression?

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on November 20, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
We size each other up quickly, based on what we see. A happy face is noticeable, memorable, and creates positive emotion—which enhances the perception of authenticity.

Millennial Distress: Why So Much? Why Now?

By Russ Federman Ph.D., A.B.P.P. on November 12, 2017 in Bipolar You
A discussion of current socioeconomic and social media influences upon the emotional and psychological distress of today's millennial generation.

52 Ways: What Motivates Others Who Threaten a Relationship?

By Roni Beth Tower Ph.D., ABPP on November 12, 2017 in Life, Refracted
A couple's relationship can be threatened by others. To minimize potential damage, explore conscious or unconscious motives that a third party might have.

The Psychological Roots of Trumpism

Downward Comparison Theory helps to explain some of Trump's unwavering support.

The Most Attractive Trait Displayed During First Impression

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on November 01, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
First impressions are best formed in person because emotions matter. Responsive strangers are found to be attractive and desirable.

How Physically Fit Are You Really?

By Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. on November 01, 2017 in Media Spotlight
New research suggests that how we perceive our level of physical activity compared to other people our age can play an important role in staying healthy and living longer.

Choosing a Romantic Partner

By Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. on October 17, 2017 in In the Name of Love
It is mistaken to hold that keeping all romantic options open cannot be bad, as you can always select the best. There is a cost to this and too much of a good thing can be harmful.

Is Facebook Making You Depressed?

Long a concern of psychologists studying Facebook use, the possibility of users become depressed comes under scrutiny in newly published research.

Establishing Love With an Imperfect Partner

By Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. on September 26, 2017 in In the Name of Love
The prevailing ideal of a perfect love is a major obstacle for establishing enduring, profound love.

Power Role Play: Dressing For Success Makes You Successful

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on September 09, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
We perceive the competence and character traits of others, at least initially, by what they wear. Yet research reveals that we apply the same standards to ourselves.

What Should You Wear on a First Date? Why it Matters

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on September 03, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
On a first date, a woman´s attire can be perceived as transmitting romantic interest and receptivity to advances, often resulting in false expectations.

How to Spot a Cyber Bullying Victim Before It Is Too Late

When it comes to bullying behavior, toxic texting is the new fistfight at the bike racks. Yet unlike an after school sucker punch, online bullying can be deadly.
Haggstrom, Mikael (2014)/Wikimedia Commons

"How's Your Sugar?" (Diabetes-1)

By Elizabeth Young on August 29, 2017 in Adaptations
This was bad news.  Alice August, a girl in my fifth-grade class, had diabetes, and she was a mess. 

Are you Generating Instagram Envy? How to Post, Not Boast

Although starstruck Instagram followers enjoy living vicariously, posters are most likely to generate goodwill through showcasing a life of love, not luxury.

Should You Worry About Your Partner´s Attractive "Friends?"

How many of you have felt anxious upon meeting a new paramour´s gorgeous "good friend?" Friendship attraction is a relational complication that is a blessing and a curse.

From Friendship to Courtship: How Friends Fall in Love

How do couples transition from friendship to courtship? The answer depends on projection and mutual attraction.