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Abstract

This article notices that social comparison theory has developed from being a focused theoretical statement on the use of others for self-evaluation into a lively and varied area of research encompassing many different paradigms, approaches and applications. A recent ‘renaissance’ in social comparison theory is described in which links were established with social comparison work from before Festinger's (1954) classic paper, and in which various new methods and theoretical models were developed. More recently, an ‘enlightment’ of social comparison theory seems to occur in which an integrative effort is made to link social comparison processes to more general principles that underlie our psychological functioning. Four trends in this enlightment are described: (1) the movement of social cognition to the centre stage of social comparison research; (2) the interest in more biological perspectives, including evolutionary theory; (3) the focus on the role of individual differences such as social comparison orientation (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999) in moderating the responses to social comparison; and (4) an emphasis on the social context of social comparisons, in particular the influence of social groups and social identity. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.