Generic Comparison Processes in Human Judgment and Behavior
John C. Masters · Vanderbilt University Linda J. Keil · University of North Carolina
Beginning with the premise that nearly all judgments and evaluations must be made on some sort of relative basis, the present chapter argues for increased attention to the comparison aspect of social comparison and the behavior, cognitions, and affect it influences. An attempt is made to systematize types of comparisons not typically seen as social, but that are frequently invoked in the formulation of evaluations and judgments (e.g., personal comparisons pertaining to the self at one time and another) and having an impact on thought, feeling, and action. However, there is no intention to minimize the importance of social comparison.
A major portion of the chapter is devoted to the development of a taxonomy of factors relevant to comparison processes, including the various types of information that may be involved and parameters of the comparison process itself. This aspect is similar to the model-development component of the Levine and Moreland chapter that focuses on social comparison in the group context. In addition, two examples are presented of issues meriting sustained attention: the origins of comparison motives and behavior, and the role of information-processing heuristics in comparison activity. The goal of this chapter is to provide a broad, parametric framework of comparison-based evaluation processes in the hope of fostering theory and research on the cognitive, affective, and social learning factors governing the making and outcomes of comparison evaluations.