Aiming at the top? Upward social comparison of abilities after failure



This study examined the effects of feedback on a task on information seeking and partner preferences as forms of social comparison. It was predicted that subjects who experienced failure and perceived control over future performance would, for reasons of self-improvement, choose more strongly upward a comparison other than subjects who experienced success or perceived no control. In the experiment, 121 college students were given either failure, average, or success feedback on a bogus test for either a stable or a controllable ability. Next, the subjects choose a comparison other whose test material they would examine, and a comparison other as a partner for writing an evaluation of the test. As predicted, the preferences for information seeking and affiliation were more strongly upward when subjects experienced failure than when subjects experienced success. Perceived control partly resulted in more strongly upward choices in information seeking for subjects experiencing failure.