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

The GOP, Convention Turn Taking, and the Primacy Effect

When voters watch competing messages during both conventions, political turn-taking can benefit the party who goes first. This is true even when controlling for partisan bias.

Did the GOP Unconventional Convention Change Your Vote?

In politics, the impact of an initial positive impression endures—even in the face of subsequent negative attacks. The GOP convention may particularly impact partisan voters.

Vetting the Veep: Image Enhancement or Instrument of Attack

Presidential running mate selection involves a courtship designed to facilitate a marriage of convenience—where the Vice President-to-be has several very important roles.

Toward a Photo Finish: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Votes

A picture is worth a thousand votes. Candidate photos are an integral part of elections because viewers are voters. When casting their ballot, citizens both look and listen.

Voting With Our Eyes: Attractive Candidates Get More Votes

Less informed voters tend to vote with their eyes instead of their minds. Yet when it comes to casting an intelligent vote, knowledge is power. Information overrides appearance.

Other People's Great Vacations Don't Have to Get to You

When you’re stuck at home or in the office while others flaunt their fabulous journeys around the world, it can be tough. This will help you get over your case of vacation envy.

Orlando Shooter´s Homophobia: Ideology or Identity?

Did Omar Mateen´s homophobia reflect outrage or identity? Counterintuitive, yet empirically corroborated, some individuals despise the same community with which they identify.

When Disrespectful is Desirable: Trump-Warren´s War of Words

The 2016 Presidential candidates and their surrogates are name calling their way to the Oval Office. Yet will fiery rhetoric and Twitter rants translate into electibility?

Is There a Bit of Donald Trump in Each of Us?

Does any part of Trump´s fiery, often inappropriate rhetoric express what you were thinking? Playing the Human Card, candidates connect better with common ground than background.

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.

Throwing Bullets on the Fire

By John Sean Doyle on May 28, 2015 in Luminous Things
We look at the mindless things others do and it is easy to blame. But we forget that we are negligent too. Negligent and unlucky is a crime no one can shake.

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.