PSY220 - 8. The Self & Social comparison Flashcards Preview

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What self-related thoughts are most accessible?
Markus (1977): If certain self-attributes are more accessible, then information about that attribute should be processed more readily and efficiently.


Markus (1977)

1. Used q’aire to identify 3 types of subjects:
a. Dependent
b. Independent
c. Aschematic
2. Flashed a list of adjectives on computer screen (15 related to independence – e.g., “individualistic”, 15 related to dependence, 15 unrelated.)
3. Subjects asked to judge as quickly as possible whether each word described themselves (pressed “me” button or “not me” button). (BTW, similar to IAT.)


Markus (1977)

1. Dependents said “me” to more of the dependent adj’s and independents said “me” to more of the independent adj’s.
2. But more interestingly…
3. Although independents said “me” to an equal number of dependent and independent traits, it took them longer to respond to dependent traits! – longer RTs, not as efficiently processed


Markus (1977)

4. Independents’ shorter RT’s for independent adjectives suggests that these adjectives were more accessible (easier to process). Longer RT’s for their “me” responses to dependent adjectives suggests that they were thinking harder about these adjectives…e.g., “hoped-for me,” potentially me.”



Who takes it harder after failing an exam?
Less complex – shelley


Linville (1987)

1. Had subjects list the personality traits that they believed applied to them.
2. Had subjects sort this list into meaningful groups (as many or as few as they wanted.
3. Used a mathematical formula (that you don’t have to worry about) to calculate each subject’s self-complexity score. (Higher s-c if number of items high and amount of overlap low).


Linville (1987)

4. Had subjects list of life stresses they had experienced in the previous two weeks.
5. Completed questionnaire to measure depression and questionnaire to assess various physical ailments.
6. Subjects returned two weeks later and filled out same DV’s again.


Linville (1987)

Low stress high stress
No diff hi s-c > lo s-c
High s-c had better immune functioning
Unless you arrange your life so you don’t get setback, then having high complexity is better
The flipside: low s-c may have an advantage when stress is low and they experience positive events. Their positive affect will go even higher and spill over into other areas of the self. For complex person, triumph in one area is compartmentalized…no generalized rise in perceived self-worth.


Social comparison

BIRG-ing: sense of pride and satisfaction in someone else’s achievements
no connection, even arbitrary connection can lead to birging phenomenon
CORF-ing: sense of shame and disassociation with someone else’s failures


Social comparison

Tesser (1986): pointed out that the success of people similar or close to us can cause envy, resentment, lower self-esteem
Direct comparisson
Similarity can cause envy because it highlights inadequecy
Closeness contributes to alignable comparison


Festinger (1954)

Much of social comparison is because of informational influence.
#1 The standards by which we judge ourselves are often unclear. Therefore, we are most likely to do social comparison when in a state of uncertainty about our abilities, attributes, attitudes.
For amiguous traits, we try to gage ourselves relative to others


Festinger (1954)

#2 It’s most informative to compare with people close to us in ability.
True test is to play with someone with similar ability
Given a choice when there’s a choice, play someone with similar ability
Drive upward, choose ppl similar but slightly better – gain as much info as we can to improve performance



“Misery loves miserable company.”
Receive electric shocks, 1 of 2 waiting rooms. 1 had ppl waiting for electric shocks, others had ppl already had shocks. Wanted a match in emotional states. Want to gauge appropriateness of own fear.


Goethals & Darley (1977)

distinguished between beliefs and values. We compare to similar person vis a vis values, but dissimilar person vis a vis beliefs. (If dissimilar person holds same view as us, that’s considered highly informative.)
Beliefs – informative to compare with someone who is dissimilar – leads to augmentation


Downward social comparison: (Big fish in a small pond)

Short term makes you feel better – short increase in self esteem
But long term its bad for you: lose important info on how to improve
Tradeoff between feeling good and learning something
Prevention focused downward – make sure you’re not as bad as that person


Downward social comparison: (Big fish in a small pond)

Promotion focused upward – want to be good as that guy
Motivation to think highly of one’s self vs.
Motivation to have an accurate view of one’s self
Self verification – opportunity to self enhance, but inaccurate because they think they’re no good



affective component of the self -- our positive and negative evaluations of ourselves. – attitude toward ourselves (Coopersmith, 1967, J.D. Brown, 1998).


Is it best to conceptualize s-e as a single, unitary trait?

There is evidence of contextualized s-e (diff for each domain) and compartmentalized s-e (universal).
Prevailing idea that everyone needs self-esteem



1. It’s driven by a more primitive need to connect with others and gain their approval. Thus, our self-esteem is an indicator of how we are doing in the eyes of others. According to this view, self-esteem is inherently social in origin. (Evolutionary basis…it's adaptive to be part of a group, and even more adaptive to a member of high standing in a group.)
Fundamental human need
When not saisfied – physical + psychological ailments
self esteem reflective of how we think others see us



2. terror management theory--Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszcynski (1997): people are motivated to see themselves as valuable members of society as a mechanism for helping themselves cope with the deeply rooted fear of death that privately haunts all of us.
Buffer that blocks us from thinking about painful thoughts of our nonexisting


Benefits of self-esteem

1. longer task persistence
2. better sleep at night
3. fewer ulcers
4. less likely to conform to peer pressure
5. less depressed, more optimistic about future
6. more confidence as they take on a new task
7. clearer sense of who they are


Campbell (1990):

1. asked high and low self-esteem subjects to rate selves on various trait dimensions such as quiet/outspoken, competitive/cooperative.
Results: hi and lo s-e groups did not differ in mean ratings. Did differ on standard deviation of ratings.
High self esteem rated themselves more extremely – felt more confidence
Low self esteem rates themselves in the middle – lack confidence


Campbell (1990):

self-defeating cycle of low self-esteem:
self-helpless cycle
low s-e → negative expectancies → low effort/high anxiety → failure → self-blame→low s-e


Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice (1993)

In a series of studies, had subjects with high and low self-esteem perform a variety of tasks that varied in how risky they were and how rewarding they were.
Results: Found that subjects with high s-e in general set appropriate goals and performed effectively



caused only high s-e subjects to set inappropriately risky goals that were beyond their performance capabilities. These subjects ended up with smaller overall payoffs than low s-e subjects.
In other words, ego-threat induces an overly powerful compensatory process (“I’ll show you!”) that can lead high s-e people to attempt tasks they simply can’t perform.
Low self-esteem actually means you are giving scores in the middle of the scale
Low scores means they are vulnerable to depression
Esteem IAT


Self-awareness theory (Duval & Wicklund, 1972)

Found, across a wide array of studies, that heightening self awareness (e.g., via a mirror in the room) has the common consequence of:
1. heightening negative self-discrepancies,
2. leading to a temporary decrease in self-esteem.
Falling short of ideal and oughts


Self-awareness theory

Macrae and colleagues (1998) found that subjects were less likely to use stereotypes in describing others when they were seated in view of a mirror, when they could see themselves on a TV monitor, or when their names were subliminally primed on a computer screen (thus unconsciously raising self-awareness). (The “ought” of avoiding stereotyping was activated.)
More likely to act on attitude
Raising discrepancies – painful – fix the problem



Nursing home residents who were given more control over their daily routines (e.g., when to eat, when to watch TV, when to administer pills, etc.) became happier and more active, showed improved health and actually lived longer…compared to those residents who were not given control over their daily routines.
Improve outcomes for range of diseases as well. More about the perception of control.


Albert Bandura: self-efficacy beliefs

people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances"
I can do it.
Vary among and within people.
Self-efficacy beliefs provide the foundation for human motivation, well-being, and personal accomplishment.
Won’t be able to do anything without any self-efficacy


Albert Bandura: self-efficacy beliefs

Self-efficacy is also a critical determinant of self-regulation.
Higher resistance, goals, less vulnerable to anxiety, better in bad circumstances
Based past experience which becomes new reality
Approach task with sense of serenity
"people's level of motivation, affective states, and actions are based more on what they believe than on what is objectively true" For this reason, how people behave can often be better predicted by the beliefs they hold about their capabilities than by what they are actually capable of accomplishing