When peer performance matters: effects of expertise and trait information on children’s self-evaluations in a social comparison setting

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Candace Lapan (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Janet Boseovski

Abstract: People often evaluate their own skills in relation to others’ performance. Two experiments examined the influence of peer characteristics on children’s responses to upward social comparisons (i.e., peers who outperformed them). In Experiment 1, a total of 126 5-, 8-, and 10-year-olds were told that they were outperformed by an expert or novice peer on a familiar task and a novel task. Five-year-olds reported high self-evaluations and expectations of winning a competition regardless of peer expertise and task type, and this effect decreased with age. Eight-year-olds reported high self-evaluations after comparisons to an expert for both task types, whereas 10-year-olds did so only for the familiar task. Finally, 8- and 10-year-olds were more optimistic about their ability to win a competition after comparisons with a novice than an expert peer, but 8-year-olds felt this way only for the familiar task and 10-year-olds felt this way only for the novel task. In Experiment 2, a total of 98 5- to 6-year-olds and 9- to 10-year-olds were told that the peer had a positive or negative trait that was task-relevant (i.e., intelligence) or task-irrelevant (i.e., athleticism). Younger children reported high-self evaluations and expectations of winning a competition indiscriminately. Older children reported higher self-evaluations and competition expectations after hearing about positive rather than negative traits, irrespective of task relevance. This research documents an emerging sensitivity to relative failure and peer characteristics in self-evaluation. Taken together, the studies provide insight into the development of children’s expertise and trait conceptualizations as related, but distinct, competence cues in early to middle childhood. By middle childhood, children consider whether they were outperformed and who outperformed them. These results have implications for understanding how children’s self-evaluations can be altered by the way in which teachers and parents frame relative failure.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Ability Conceptions, Epistemic Reasoning, Expertise, Self-Evaluation, Social Comparison, Trait Reasoning
Social comparison
Failure (Psychology) in children
Child psychology

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