The attainability of upward social comparisons is known to affect self-evaluative responses. The consequences for performance, however, are less well understood. We suggest that demoralizing upward comparisons with unattainable targets may lead to improved performance when the target and performance domains are mismatched. For example, comparison with a target that has been successful in an analytic domain should lead to better performance in a verbal domain. This improvement in performance occurs because increased performance in alternative domains provides an opportunity for self-evaluation maintenance. In three studies, we demonstrate that upward comparisons to targets whose successes are perceived as threatening lead to improved performance when the task and performance domain do not match, but no improvements when the domains match. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.