Social comparison and self-esteem: A vicious cycle – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Social comparison and self-esteem: A vicious cycle

Ingrid Worth

Ingrid Worth

Pronouns: she/her

Research Mentor(s): Zachary Reese, Ph.D. Student
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Social Psychology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 3 (1pm-1:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 20
Presenter: 1

Event Link


Why are some people exasperated by social comparisons while others find comparisons negligible? Past research has identified self-esteem as a key individual difference coloring the experience of social comparison. This research reveals that social comparison and low self-esteem share a vicious, circular relationship: people with low self-esteem are more inclined to compare themselves to others, and upward comparisons tend to lower people’s self-esteem (Gibbons & Buunk, 1999; Hoffman et al., 1954; Tesser, 1989; Wood et al., 1985). Yet, it remains unclear what psychological processes perpetuate this process; why do people with low self-esteem engage in social comparison? We propose that people with low self-esteem have both less motivation to regulate their emotions and a smaller toolkit for regulation (Gross, 2015). Accordingly, people with low self-esteem may be more likely to enter environments where comparisons are likely (e.g, social media), fixate on available comparisons, and perceive comparisons as meaningful. We report two studies examining how emotion regulation processes shape the experience of social comparison among people with low self-esteem. Study 1 examines whether emotion regulation capacity and regulatory flexibility mediate the relationship between social comparison orientation and self-esteem. Study 2 employs an experimental design to test whether one can mitigate or nullify the negative relationship between social comparison and self-esteem via a brief reappraisal exercise. This research will shed light on how best to intervene in the cycle that perpetuates low self-esteem.

Authors: Ingrid Worth, Sampoorna Ravikanth, Zachary Reese
Research Method: Community Based Research

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