Social comparison after success and failure: Biased search for information consistent with a self-serving conclusion

Tom Pyszczynski, Jeff L Greenberg, John LaPrelle

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Abstract

Based on the traditional and attributional perspectives on social comparison, it was hypothesized that the search for social comparison information after performance outcomes is biased so as to provide evidence consistent with a favorable self-evaluation. In Experiment 1, subjects were led to believe that they obtained 16 or 8 out of 20 items correct on a bogus social sensitivity test and were then led to expect that most other students performed either well or poorly on the test. They were then given the opportunity to inspect up to 50 scored answer sheets from previous subjects. Consistent with the hypothesis, failure subjects requested more information when they expected it to reveal that most students performed poorly than when they expected it to reveal that most students performed well; success subjects showed little interest in this additional information, regardless of their expectancies as to what it would reveal. Experiment 2 employed a different approach to manipulating performance outcomes and led subjects to expect that most other subjects performed better, the same, or worse than themselves. Regardless of their own performance, subjects showed the least interest in additional information in the higher score expectancy condition and the most interest in additional information in the lower score expectancy condition. The role that this information search bias may play in producing self-serving attributions for success and failure and maintaining positive self-evaluations was discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-211
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1985

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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