Self-Evaluation Effects of Interpersonal Versus Intergroup Social Comparison

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Two studies tested the prediction that the outcome of social comparison will differ depending on whether interpersonal or intergroup comparison processes have been engaged. Results of an experiment in which college student participants were assigned to membership in a minority or majority social category confirmed the predicted three-way interaction effect of in-group salience, target group membership, and upward–downward comparison on self-assessments of academic ability. Majority group members exhibited contrast effects in their self-ratings following exposure to a videotape of an in-group member displaying either very high or very low academic competence. Self-evaluations of minority group members revealed assimilation effects in response to in-group comparisons and contrast effects in response to out-group comparisons. In a second, follow-up experiment, this in-group assimilation effect was found to be dependent on intergroup contrast.

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