Stigma and multiple social comparisons in people with schizophrenia



This paper investigates social comparisons in people with schizophrenia. Stigma theories often suggest that people with stigmatized conditions face a chronic threat to self-esteem and that they respond to this in a variety of ways, one of which is by using ingroup downward comparisons. We analysed the spontaneous social comparisons used by participants in semi-structured interviews. A wide range of comparison dimensions, target others, and groupings were used, most of which did not represent a category of people with schizophrenia in more negative terms than those without the illness. Participants presented themselves positively, referring to downward and lateral comparisons more often than upward comparisons. In addition, although downward comparisons did refer to people with schizophrenia, they were more likely to refer to others who did not have schizophrenia, and to dimensions which were not related to mental illness. It is suggested that investigations of the relations between stigma and self need to take account of the multiple identities and dimensions of comparisons available to people for construing themselves and the social context. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.