Evaluative contrast in social comparison: the role of distinct and shared features of the self and comparison others



Self-other comparisons frequently evoke contrastive reactions, especially when the comparison dimension is relevant and when people strive to maintain or preserve a positive self-evaluation. In three studies, normal-weight women were asked to gauge satisfaction with their body weight. In Study 1, self-evaluation was affected by accessible distinctive information either referring to the self or to comparison others. Studies 2 and 3 tested whether the evaluative contrast observed in Study 1 is reduced when shared features receive greater weight. Consistent with the proposition that perceived similarity between self and comparison others renders assimilative reactions more likely, evaluative contrast was markedly reduced when similarities were stressed prior to the comparison process, either by suggesting that one shares certain characteristics with others unrelated to the comparison dimension or by increasing the identification with the comparison other through an intergroup contrast.. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.