A study of social comparison

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Update Date 12/05/2020
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Social comparison is a theory proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. Its central idea is that we, as human beings, have the habit of comparing ourselves with peers, then come to conclusions about our life quality based merely on what we see.

Basically, there are 2 types of comparisons:

  • Upward comparison means that we compare ourselves with people who we think are better than us in several ways. It makes us feel bad and desires to improve ourselves.
  • Downward comparison means that we compare ourselves with people we deem worse than us. It makes us feel better about ourselves.

In this modern era, when technology makes it possible for us to peek at other people’s lives through multimedia and social networks, we have more chances to make comparisons than ever. We usually compared ourselves with others who similar to us on dimension or even everyone.

Upward comparison

If you want to stay happy, it is advisable to make downward comparisons, which can make you feel better and encouraged. Believe it or not, people are usually much happier when they hear about problems with their peers. It is a guilty pleasure that everyone experiences once in a while. Now you know why so many people love gossips. It also explains why we feel so good doing charitable work. Helping the poor and the disabled gives us a sense that our lives are still favorable, at least a bit more than those of many others.

Downward comparison

However, upward comparisons are not totally bad. It is true that upward comparison makes us envy, and sometimes hope that bad things will happen to those who are better than us. But it also pushes you to try harder, put more effort in what you do. It is okay to envy someone, as long as you that envy motivates you to improve yourself rather than tearing others apart.

It is a human thing to compare. Because you cannot get rid of it, let’s learn to make it work for you. If you can deal with your social comparisons, and use them in a positive way, you will be able to actually get better, as well as maximize your happiness.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnose or treatment.

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Read also:

    Sources

    Got Happiness? Social Comparison Theory Can Help! https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201304/got-happiness-social-comparison-theory-can-help Assessed September 18, 2016

    The Power of (Benign) Envy. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201105/the-power-benign-envy Assessed September 18, 2016

    What Is Social Comparison Theory.https://www.verywell.com/what-is-the-social-comparison-process-2795872 Assessed September 18, 2016

    Social Comparison http://www.psych.purdue.edu/~willia55/Teaching/OldLectures/socialcomparison.htm Assessed September 18, 2016

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