Referent Status Neglect: Winners Evaluate Themselves Favorably Even When the Competitor is Incompetent

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ethan Zell, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: People evaluate themselves more favorably when they outperform a referent (downward comparison) than when they underperform a referent (upward comparison). However, research has yet to examine whether people are sensitive to the status of the referent during social comparison. That is, does defeating a highly skilled referent yield more favorable self-evaluations than defeating an unskilled referent? Does losing to an unskilled referent yield less favorable self-evaluations than losing to a skilled referent? To address these questions, participants learned that they performed better or worse than another person (social comparison) who ranked above average or below average (referent status). Social comparison information had a more pronounced influence on self-evaluations than referent status information. Furthermore, consistent with self-enhancement theories, participants selectively highlighted referent status information when it had favorable implications for the self. These findings demonstrate that people neglect referent status information, leading winners to evaluate themselves favorably even when the competitor is incompetent.

Additional Information

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 18-23
Language: English
Date: 2015
Social comparison, Self-evaluation, Self-perception, Social judgement

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