What is the 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

Rocking the Vote: Is Trump Psychology Flash Over Substance?

Does Donald Trump have star power or staying power? Is Trump psychology a case of flash over substance?

How to Fix Dual Ticket Pricing at India's Taj Mahal

Four psychology-based suggestions to change the way tickets are priced will improve every tourist’s experience to this monument.

Taming the Tweet: Why Trump´s Sound Bites Are Headlines

Candidate backgrounds influence their language, personality, and electability. From the courtroom to the boardroom... to the locker room.

Why Dual Ticket Pricing at India’s Taj Mahal is Wrong

Price discrimination done incorrectly victimizes tourists & leaves them feeling humiliated & upset.

Social Comparisons Can Make You Give Up

By Art Markman Ph.D. on April 01, 2016 in Ulterior Motives
Competition can often be motivating. Yet, in ordinary life, social comparisons can also be de-motivating.

Why We Laugh at Others on April Fool's Day

By Paul Dolan Ph.D. on April 01, 2016 in Happiness by Design
Why does laughing at the expense of others bring us so much pleasure and what does it say about our human nature? Here are some key explanations.

Haters Gonna Hate

How self esteem and stereotyping are linked

10 Principles to Maximize Happiness

Attending to these 10 important principles will improve happiness and well-being. Easier said than done of course but if we really want to be happy then we need to try these.

Happy People Like Happy People

By Art Markman Ph.D. on March 02, 2016 in Ulterior Motives
Your social environment has a big effect on your mood. Does your current level of happiness affect the kinds of people you want to hang around?

Alek Sandar and the Unreality of Social Media

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on January 19, 2016 in Brick by Brick
Alek Sandar sends a message about social media to us all: You are not your "likes."

The Psychology of Christmas Presents

Females are disproportionately active as Christmas gift givers, giving 84% of all gifts, and receiving only 61%...

What to Do When Social Media Make You Miserable

Social networks can often stimulate the unpleasant emotions of shame and envy. Here's how to shrug off those posts that peeve you.

The Redemption of Lou Barlow

By Michael Friedman Ph.D. on September 22, 2015 in Brick by Brick
Lou Barlow shares his battle with social anxiety and how he has been able to use music to cope.

3 Reasons to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

By Deborah Carr Ph.D. on August 08, 2015 in Bouncing Back
Why efforts to be "the best" are doomed to fail.

The Wonder of New Worlds

By Neal Roese Ph.D. on August 06, 2015 in In Hindsight
On July 23, 2015, the discovery of the planet Kepler-452b was announced -- the most Earth-like planet yet found, with a size similar to earth and an orbital distance from its sun just right for sustaining We aren’t going there any time soon, yet star travel nonetheless animates our imaginations. What might we find out there?

3 Reasons Not to Spend Your Money on Things

By Amie M. Gordon PhD on June 30, 2015 in Between You and Me
The other weekend I went to the mall in search of new running shoes. When I arrived, the parking lot was so full that I had to circle around before I found a spot. The stores were equally crowded inside. Apparently none of these shoppers had read Leaf Van Boven's 2005 review article highlighting the benefits of spending money on experiences over material goods.

Earth to Humans: Why Have You Forsaken Me? Poor Comparisons

By Kenneth Worthy Ph.D. on June 26, 2015 in The Green Mind
What are the psychological roadblocks that explain why we’re not doing much to solve global climate change—a phenomenon that threatens the core of our society? This is the third post in a seven-part series.

Four Strategies to Make Facebook Work Better for You

Facebook has become a very powerful phenomenon and tool, transforming lives around the globe. But you need to find a way to make it work for you and not against you. Keeping social comparison theory in mind might help you to do so. Monitor your mood and comparisons after Facebook use and then act accordingly.

Why Pursuit of Superiority Lowers Happiness (and Success)

By Raj Raghunathan Ph.D. on June 02, 2015 in Sapient Nature
Many of us also believe that the desire for superiority is a good thing--for both success and for happiness. This article busts this myth.
Piero Fissore/Flickr, used pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

Throwing Bullets on the Fire

By John Sean Doyle on May 28, 2015 in Luminous Things
We look at the mindless and senseless things people do and it is easy to blame. How can they be so stupid? Didn’t they think for a moment? But as long as there is no ricochet or crash, we are allowed to forget that we too are irresponsible and thoughtless. Every one of us is negligent. But to be negligent and unlucky? That is a crime no one can ever shake off.

Smart, Successful, and Yet Not Happy?

Why aren't the smart-and-the-successful as happy as they could--or should--be? In this article, I attempt to provide a broad answer to this question.

3 Reasons Any of Us Can Blow Up, at Anyone

We all have thoughts and impulses that are horrific if acted upon. Keeping our impulsive behaviors in check is one of the most important and hardest things we have to do in life. And if you add extreme frustration, anger, or alcohol it becomes that much harder to control this more ugly side of all of us.

Forensic Media Psychology and a Camera in Every Pocket!

Forensic Media Psychology (FMP) is an important sub-specialty in psychology offering increasing professional opportunity. Present applications include law, public policy, government, health care, entertainment, education, commerce, the military, social justice, and more. Citizen video and a camera in every pocket is causing a cultural reset.

Wage Gap Continues to Widen

Is the American Dream still attainable in this country, or is the system rigged against the majority of workers today in America?

Reality Television: Behind the Obsession

By Anastasia Harrell on November 25, 2014 in The View From Venus
Our growing fascination (read: obsession) with reality television and our apparent attachment to its stars may be a reflection of our shifting definition of friendship.

Everybody Else is Cheating, Right? Not Necessarily

By Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D. on September 22, 2014 in Close Encounters
Our perceptions of the acceptability of infidelity could influence our likelihood to cheat. And those perceptions are likely to be wrong.

Keeping Up With Appearances

By Guest Bloggers on May 09, 2014 in Brainstorm
More time on Facebook is associated with higher levels of disordered eating.

The High Cost of Vanity

The clothes we wear reflect our personalities. If you’re drawn to clothes that carry with them recognizable and often pricey logos, it may be time to examine why. The combination of vanity and narcissism can prove costly to your wallet. By understanding the forces that drive you to overspend, you can gain better control of your wallet, if not your self-esteem.

Do You Have Valentine’s Day Distress?

As we approach Valentine’s Day many are likely to reflect on their love life (or lack of love life) and then compare their relationship satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with others. Observing loving and romantic posts on Facebook might make those without a satisfactory love life (who want one) pretty depressed and distressed. Social comparison theory can help you cope.

Understanding Envy With Social Comparison Theory

Top often we want to present ourselves to the world in a positive and successful manner but social comparison theory predicts that others often respond to our good news and efforts for success with envy. What should you do about this tension in relationships when your good news is met with envy among others?