Social Comparison and Self-Evaluation in the Classroom: Developmental Changes in Knowledge and Function
Diane N. Ruble · New York University Karin s. Frey · University of Washington
Much of the extant research on social comparison in children has been confined to the laboratory and has been concerned with what children can or will do with the social comparison information that is made available in the experimental setting (see Smith, Davidson, & FranceKaatrude, this volume). Ruble and her colleagues have made important contributions to this literature. In this chapter, Ruble and Frey turn to an actual classroom setting for their study of social comparison in children. In such settings children must devise strategies for obtaining comparison information, rather than having it available ad lib. as in the laboratory. Further, these strategies must ideally take into account not only the developmentally shifting aims of comparison but also the public setting of comparison, with its potential for embarrassment and envy.
By coordinating observational and interview data with children from kindergarten to grade 4, Ruble and Frey present an intriguing picture of the development of social comparison in classroom settings. They show developmental changes in the function of comparison, in the interplay of knowledge and strategy, and also show the ways in which children come to accommodate the need for social harmony in their comparison strategies. The authors point to important parallels between this pattern and the developmental sequence in social justice.