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Downward Comparison Principles in Social Psychology

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Wills, T.A. (1981) Downward Comparison Principles in Social Psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 245-271. Part of social comparison theory (Festinger, 1954)

Individuals are motivated to gain accurate evaluations of themselves by examining their opinions and abilities in comparison to others Downward comparison (Wills, 1981) – a person experiencing negative affect can enhance their subjective well-being through comparison with a less fortunate other, the process occurring either passively or actively. Often used by people with low self-esteem Defensive tendency that people use as a means of self-evaluation Used studies about fear-affiliation effect (Schacter, 1959) , choice of others for social comparison, scapegoating, projection, aversive environmental events and attraction to others, social prejudice, hostile aggression, and humor Situational corollary – downward comparison is evoked by a decrease in subjective well-being Corollary 1 – downward comparison can occur on a passive basis in which person would take advantage of available opportunities for comparison with a less fortunate other Corollary 2 – downward comparison can be affected on an active basis Active derogation of another person, and increases distance of self from that other Actively causing harm to another person, creating the opportunity to compare to less fortunate other Personality corollary – person who are low in self-esteem are more likely to engage in downward comparison Target principle – downward comparison (DC) tends to be directed at lower status targets Ambivalence principle – People are ambivalent about downward comparison (not admirable) Fear affiliation effect – (Schachter, 1959; Darley 1966) threatened subjects showed a greater preference for affiliating with other potential fellow sufferers compared to non-threatened subjects (can be already suffered, who are viewed as more fortunate because their turn is over) Choice of others for social comparison – people perceiving high threat will more likely compare themselves to people who are worse off Self evaluation

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Self enhancement – prefer to compare to dissimilar and downward rather than upward Scape goating – using corollary 1 & 2

Projection – threatened subjects attribute unfavorable traits to both desirable (assumed similarity) and undesirable (halo effect) subjects Aversive environmental events and attraction towards others – negative
ratings for strangers and favorable ratings for fellow sufferers Aversive environment – heat, crowding

Social prejudice – Done by people who are most threatened and have little chance of improving or declining in their own position.

In group always more favorable than out group (Brewer, 1979) Enhance in group wellbeing – as soon as ingroup member is threatened, derogation of outgroup occurs Hostile aggression –Cause suffering of another to create downward group for comparison Essential nature of aggression evoking stimuli is ego threat: an intentional and personal insult to the subject.

Humor – conducted at someone’s expense, creating situations for favorable comparison Linked to aggression (Levine, 1969, p.12)

Occurs in the absence of overt threat to the participants
Involve something which the audience feels insecure—boss-employee relationship, marital dissatisfaction/family discord, job security, criticism/ridicule from others, and sex Downward comparison can elevate self-regard

In Relation to other theories
It is a basic motivational processes and not intended to cover secondary issues i.e.: conformity (in derogation), social prejudice (involves more processes), economic competition, etc

Cite this Downward Comparison Principles in Social Psychology

Downward Comparison Principles in Social Psychology. (2016, Nov 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/downward-comparison-principles-in-social-psychology/

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