Social Comparison and Affiliation Under Threat: Going Beyond the Affiliate-Choice Paradigm

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Abstract

This study examined the emotional similarity hypothesis—a derivation from social comparison theory, which predicts that increasing fear should lead to greater affiliation with someone who is awaiting the same threat (and who therefore is of relatively similar emotional status) relative to someone who has already experienced the threat (and who therefore is of relatively dissimilar emotional status). The results failed to support the emotional similarity hypothesis and in so doing challenged the importance of emotional comparison as a determinant of verbal affiliation under threat. Cognitive clarity concerns instead seemed to account better for the observed effects on verbal affiliation. Supplementary analyses of nonverbal affiliation (facial glances) likewise ran counter to an emotional similarity prediction. Effects of affiliation on anxiety were also examined. Previous conclusions regarding the pattern and causes of affiliation under threat that have relied on the affiliate-choice paradigm are considered.

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