The Social Comparison Theory

There are many psychological theories that have proven to be extremely useful when trying to analyze a person. As it turns out, the psychology of a certain person is based on multiple concepts that have been studied over the years. This makes it easier to determine the morals and the principles of a given person. One of the most relevant psychological theories is social comparison. It successfully explains how a person estimates his or her opinions and wishes by comparing them to those of the others.

            Social comparison has been firstly proposed by a psychologist called Leon Festinger, in 1954. At that time, this theory stated that there is something inside each person which drives them to look for similarities or differences of opinion and desires in others, in order to determine if what they wanted and needed was appropriate. To settle the fact that this theory was pertinent, Festinger said that the need to constantly compare oneself to the others is a need that people are born with. Furthermore, he also stated that if one lacks this need, they will appear hostile, arrogant and be excluded from groups. This is a statement on which many of the mundane problems are based.

            Nowadays, social comparison is somewhat an important principle. From kindergarten and until having a true job, a person is driven by constant comparisons with the others that surround him. It is safe to say that social comparison keeps everyone in a secure zone, one where moral principles are transmitted from one to another. However, social comparison can work to harm as well. People may compare harmful thought and deeds to others who choose to do harm and come to the conclusion that it is a normal attitude. This is what psychologists are trying to fight when having sessions with those who cannot control their actions.

            Social comparison is a very important tool when trying to fit into a social group. Many attempt to find similarities between them and people that take part of groups, in order to integrate themselves in that group. This is a vital technique for people because having a healthy social life ensures a good mental state. As for those who are repressed by society, there is a form of social comparison that helps them overcome the situation. The downward social comparison is a defensive technique that enables one to examine oneself, comparing his or her characteristics with those of people who have more serious problems then one’s own.

            The other type of social comparison is the one called upward social comparison. This is the tool that people use to aim for better purposes in life. It helps them evolve both psychically and professionally. The upward social comparison involves a person analyzing oneself by comparing one’s abilities, needs and beliefs to people who appear to be better. This way, one can determine what needs to be changed in order to obtain more and to be successful. This is a very useful way to become more thriving at school or at the workplace.

            The secret of a proper social comparison is to know exactly who to compare with. One needs to be pertinent when trying to analyze oneself, by identifying the proper person to compare oneself with. For instance, an artist should compare his work with someone of similar age and with similar or better competences, rather than an expert artist like Michelangelo or Picasso, or a person with lower abilities like a child. Knowing how to compare oneself is the way to determine which traits and abilities need to improve and which do not.

To come to a conclusion, social comparison is a very significant psychological feature that has been thoroughly studied in order to determine its proprieties. Depending on the psychological state one is in, one should determine which type of social comparison one needs to utilize. This way, good results are guaranteed and the evolution of one’s abilities is certain.

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