Comparisons over time: Temporal trajectories, social comparison, and self-evaluation



Social comparison information fluctuates over time. We examined how people evaluate their task performance and ability after receiving test feedback specifying not only that they ranked above or below average, but also that their social status was rising, falling, or remaining constant. Participants' self-evaluations were more positive when their social standing was rising over time rather than remaining constant. On the other hand, participants whose status was falling did not evaluate themselves less favorably than those with a constant position in the performance distribution. These reactions to performance feedback were observed on self-evaluations of ability, but not on more even-handed assessments of performance. Implications for social comparison and self-evaluation maintenance theories are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.