Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Comparison Conditions, Comparison Patterns and Models of Comparative Behavior

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Comparison Conditions, Comparison Patterns and Models of Comparative Behavior

Article excerpt

The conditions that cause subjects to make comparisons and the comparison patterns that influence the results of comparisons were investigated. People make social or temporal-past or temporal-future comparisons when facing a condition of decision. The impact of self-esteem on the choices of comparison patterns was also investigated. Unlike past research, three comparison patterns were investigated and three comparative models that lead to self-perception and affects are proposed.

Keywords: social comparison, temporal-self comparisons, comparative patterns, comparative model, self-esteem.

The theory of social comparison was proposed by Léon Festinger in 1954. Over the past decade, there has been an increasing number of comparisons with others. Although this topic has received much attention, certain questions have still not been studied. For instance, what conditions cause people to make social comparisons? With whom will they compare themselves, those better than themselves or those worse than themselves? Why do people compare themselves to others? What is the result of such comparisons? Knowing that people have a tendency to compare themselves with others (Festinger, 1954), investigating these questions is helpful and relevant.

According to Wilson and Ross (2000), in addition to social comparison, people make temporal-self comparisons. Social comparison has been the focus of past research. Less attention has been paid to temporal-self comparisons. Therefore, to ensure that this study is more complete, three comparison patterns were investigated and three comparative models were proposed.

SOCIAL AND TEMPORAL-SELF COMPARISONS

Festinger's (1954) social comparison theory postulates that humans have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities. He thought that people best serve this need for self-evaluation by measuring their attributes against direct, physical standards. However, when objective standards are unavailable, individuals compare themselves with other people.

Albert (1977) suggested that people can also fulfill their self-evaluation goals by contrasting their current standing to their past standing. He proposed a theory of temporal comparison that mirrored Festinger's theory. Suis (1986) indicated that some respondents made temporal comparisons to their past selves. As well as comparing with their past selves, individuals can make temporal comparisons to their expected future selves (Markman & McMullen, 2003; Wilson & Ross, 2000). Thus, people have a tendency to make temporal-past, temporal-future and social comparisons in their daily lives.

WHAT CAUSES PEOPLE TO MAKE COMPARISONS?

No one has clearly determined what causes people to make comparisons. However, there are a few cues in the previous literature. Festinger (1954) proposed that humans have a drive to evaluate their opinions and abilities. Wood and Taylor (1991) indicated that when one is uncertain of one's own opinion and ability, one will be motivated to evaluate oneself via social comparison. Bunnk (1995) showed that uncertainty and frustration were related to a need to engage in social comparisons. Bers and Rodin (1984) found that comparisons increased with age as children began to define domains that were particularly self-relevant. Therefore, it is reasonable to generate the following hypotheses.

H1-1: Conditions of ability will lead people to make social comparisons.

H1-2: Uncertainty will lead people to make social comparisons.

H1-3: Frustration will lead people to make social comparisons.

H1-4: Self-relevant domains will lead people to make social comparisons.

The past literature arouses our doubt that conditions of health, certainty, positive events and self-irrelevant domains will not cause people to make social comparisons. In this study, we examine whether or not health, certainty, positive events and self-irrelevant domains will cause people to make comparisons, besides investigating the hypotheses set out above. …

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