Choice of comparisons in intergroup settings: the role of temporal information and comparison motives



Three studies investigated comparison choices in intergroup settings, a neglected but important topic for theories of intergroup relations. Two main questions were addressed: What is role of comparison motives in determining comparison choices in intergroup contexts? How important are temporal comparisons (of the ingroup in the past or future) in intergroup settings? In Study 1 (N = 115), motives for Assessment or Enhancement were primed in a multi-group performance context. Compared to Controls, Assessment priming encouraged both upward and downward comparisons, while Enhancement encouraged mainly downward comparisons. In general, temporal comparisons were as prevalent as comparisons with other groups. Study 2 (N = 199) employed a real-world setting in which members of a mid-ranking university indicated their interest in comparing with other higher or lower status universities or with their own university in the past. Temporal comparisons were once more much in evidence, and manipulating enhancement motives again encouraged downward comparisons. In Study 3 (N = 40), set in the context of inter-nation student comparisons, Improvement motives were primed implicitly. This led to an increase in interest in an outgroup just above the ingroup but to a decrease in interest in future-oriented comparisons. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.