Social comparison: Why, with whom, and with what effect?

Jerry Suls*, René Martin, Ladd Wheeler

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    574 Citations (Scopus)


    Social comparison consists of comparing oneself with others in order to evaluate or to enhance some aspects of the self. Evaluation of ability is concerned with the question "Can I do X?" and relies on the existence of a proxy performer. A proxy's relative standing on attributes vis-à-vis the comparer and whether the proxy exerted maximum effort on a preliminary task are variables influencing his or her informational utility Evaluation of opinions is concerned with the questions "Do I like X?" "Is X correct?" and "Will I like X?" Important variables that affect an individual's use of social comparison to evaluate his or her opinions are the other person's expertise, similarity with the individual, and previous agreement with the individual. Whether social comparison serves a self-enhancement function depends on whether the comparer assimilates or contrasts his or her self relative to superior or inferior others. The kinds of self-knowledge made cognitively accessible and variables such as mutability of self-views and distinctiveness of the comparison target may be important determinants of assimilation versus contrast.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)159-163
    Number of pages5
    JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


    • Opinion formation
    • Self-evaluation
    • Social comparison
    • Social influence


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