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What Is the Social Comparison Process?

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Definition:

Social comparison process is a term referring the process through which people come to know themselves by evaluating their own attitudes, abilities, and beliefs in comparison with others. In most cases, we try to compare ourselves to those in our peer group or with whom we are similar.

There are two kinds of social comparison. Upward social comparison is when we compare ourselves with those who we believe are better than us. Downward social comparison is when we compare themselves to others who are worse off that ourselves.

The theory of social comparison was first proposed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger. He believed that we engage in this comparison process as a way of establishing a benchmark by which we can make accurate evaluations of ourselves. For example, a music student might compare herself to the star student of the class. If she finds that her own abilities do not measure up to her peer's talents, she might be driven to achieve more an improve her own abilities.

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