The authors thank Hart Blanton, Ladd Wheeler, Jerry Suls, John Nezlek, Peter Tymms, John Hattie, and Oliver Lüdtke for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
Phantom Behavioral Assimilation Effects: Systematic Biases in Social Comparison Choice Studies
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2010
© 2010, Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Personality
Volume 78, Issue 2, pages 671–710, April 2010
How to Cite
Marsh, H. W., Seaton, M., Kuyper, H., Dumas, F., Huguet, P., Régner, I., Buunk, A. P., Monteil, J.-M. and Gibbons, F. X. (2010), Phantom Behavioral Assimilation Effects: Systematic Biases in Social Comparison Choice Studies. Journal of Personality, 78: 671–710. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00630.x
- Issue published online: 15 MAR 2010
- Article first published online: 15 MAR 2010
ABSTRACT Consistent with social comparison theory (SCT), Blanton, Buunk, Gibbons, and Kuyper (1999) and Huguet, Dumas, Monteil, and Genestoux (2001) found that students tended to choose comparison targets who slightly outperformed them (i.e., upward comparison choices), and this had a beneficial effect on subsequent performance—a behavioral assimilation effect (BAE). We show (Studies 1 and 2) that this apparent BAE is due, in part, to uncontrolled measurement error in pretest achievement. However, using simulated data (Study 3), these phantom BAEs were eliminated with latent-variable models with multiple indicators. In Studies 4 and 5, latent-variable models were applied to the Blanton et al. and Huguet et al. data, resulting in substantially smaller but still significantly positive BAEs. More generally in personality research based on correlational data, failure to control measurement error in pretest/background variables will positively bias the apparent effects of personality variables of interest, but widely applicable approaches demonstrated here can correct for these biases.