Biases in social comparisons: Optimism or pessimism?
Social comparisons typically lead to two kinds of biases: A comparative optimism bias (i.e., a tendency for people to view themselves as more likely than others to be the beneficiaries of positive outcomes) or a comparative pessimism bias (i.e., a tendency for people to view themselves as less likely than others to be such beneficiaries); rarely are people fully calibrated in terms of how they compare to others. However, there is little systematic research on the factors that determine when a comparative optimism versus pessimism bias will occur, how they can be attenuated and whether such attenuation is always desirable. In this paper, we report four studies which demonstrate the following key results: First, we show that perceived level of control over the outcome drives whether a comparative optimism or pessimism bias will occur (Study 1). Second, an increase in perceived similarity between self and a comparison target person attenuates the comparative optimism bias in domains that people view as highly controllable (Study 2a) and attenuates the comparative pessimism bias in domains that people view as less controllable (Study 2b). Finally, we show that people are willing to work harder when they experience more comparative optimism in higher control scenarios and when they experience less comparative pessimism in lower control scenarios, illustrating that motivating people to strive harder for positive outcomes can result from exacerbated or attenuated bias, depending on the context (Study 3).
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Volume (Year): 108 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
|Contact details of provider:|| Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/obhdp|
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Klar, Yechiel & Medding, Aviva & Sarel, Dan, 1996. "Nonunique Invulnerability: Singular versus Distributional Probabilities and Unrealistic Optimism in Comparative Risk Judgments," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 229-245, August.
- Menon, Geeta & Block, Lauren G & Ramanathan, Suresh, 2002. " We're at As Much Risk As We Are Led to Believe: Effects of Message Cues on Judgments of Health Risk," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 533-49, March.
- Luce, Mary Frances & Kahn, Barbara E, 1999. " Avoidance or Vigilance? The Psychology of False-Positive Test Results," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 242-59, December.
- Menon, Geeta & Raghubir, Priya & Schwarz, Norbert, 1995. " Behavioral Frequency Judgments: An Accessibility-Diagnosticity Framework," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(2), pages 212-28, September.
- Raghubir, Priya & Menon, Geeta, 1998. " AIDS and Me, Never the Twain Shall Meet: The Effects of Information Accessibility on Judgments of Risk and Advertising Effectiveness," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 52-63, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:108:y:2009:i:1:p:39-52. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.