Social comparison: A review of theory, research, and applications

Jan Crusius, Katja Corcoran, Thomas Mussweiler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


Social comparisons—comparisons between the self and others—are a fundamental mechanism influencing people’s judgments, experiences, and behavior. Psychological research supports the notion that people constantly engage in social comparisons. Arguably, whenever they receive information about how others are, what others can and cannot do, or what others have achieved and have failed to achieve, they are inclined to relate this information to themselves (Dunning & Hayes, 1996). Likewise, whenever they want to know how they themselves are or what they themselves can and cannot do, they are likely to do so by comparing their own characteristics, fortunes, and weaknesses to those of others. One indicator for this robustness of social comparison is that people may sometimes even engage in comparisons with others who do not yield relevant information concerning the self (Gilbert et al., 1995). Another sign of the importance of social comparisons is their power in eliciting universal human emotions. We may feel pride when we succeed in outperforming competitors, marvel in admiration about the excellence of other but may also feel the pain of envying them (Crusius & Lange, 2017; Smith, 2000; Steckler & Tracy, 2014). Because comparisons with others are such an essential human proclivity, it may not be surprising that social comparison is a highly studied topic within social psychology. Three broad questions have guided this research: Why do people engage in social comparisons? To whom do they compare themselves? How do social comparisons influence the self ?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheories of social psychology
EditorsDerek Chadee
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-62794-4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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