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People's responses to upward and downward social comparisons: The role of the individual's effort-performance expectancy


Correspondence should be addressed to Nico W. Van Yperen, University of Groningen, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Grote Kruisstraat 2/I, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands (e-mail:


The aim of this research among practicing teachers was to demonstrate that the individual's effort-performance (E-P) expectancy can explain different responses to upward and downward social comparison information in terms of positive affect and the intent to work harder. The results of both Experiment 1 (N =100) and Experiment 2 (N =162) show that exposure to a superior colleague generated more positive affect among teachers than exposure to an inferior other, particularly at high levels of E-P expectancy. Perhaps more importantly, explaining target's superior performance in terms of high effort and inferior performance in terms of low effort enhanced participants' intentions to work harder at their own jobs.