Unconscious and Spontaneous and… Complex: The Three Selves Model of Social Comparison Assimilation and Contrast

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Abstract

Several theoretical perspectives predict that social comparisons lead to simple, default-driven effects when triggered outside of conscious awareness. These theoretical perspectives differ, however, in the default effects they predict. Some theories argue for self-evaluative contrast, whereas others argue for self-evaluative assimilation. The current studies tested the prediction that the default effect would vary as a function of the social context and the type of self-concept activated. When attention was focused on the personal self, contrast effects emerged. When attention was focused on collective or possible selves, assimilation effects emerged. These findings suggest that a wide range of comparison effects can be triggered spontaneously and outside of conscious awareness. However, some results also show ways in which social comparison processes simplify when deliberate reflection is lacking.

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