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Tainted recommendations: The social comparison bias


  • Garcia, Stephen M.
  • Song, Hyunjin
  • Tesser, Abraham


The present analysis reveals the social comparison bias - a bias that emerges from the social comparison process and taints recommendations. We hypothesize that people who have high standing on a relevant dimension (e.g., quantity of publications) begin to protect their social comparison context by making recommendations that prevent others, who might surpass them on the relevant dimension, from entering their comparison context. Studies 1 and 2 instantiate this effect in both hypothetical and real decision situations, showing that people tend not to recommend individuals who surpass them on the relevant dimension on which they have high standing. Finally, Study 3, in a sample of real employees, links the effect to one's concern for protecting self-esteem. Theoretical and organizational implications are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Garcia, Stephen M. & Song, Hyunjin & Tesser, Abraham, 2010. "Tainted recommendations: The social comparison bias," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 97-101, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:113:y:2010:i:2:p:97-101

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daylian M. Cain & George Loewenstein & Don A. Moore, 2005. "The Dirt on Coming Clean: Perverse Effects of Disclosing Conflicts of Interest," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-25, January.
    2. Garcia, Stephen M. & Tor, Avishalom, 2007. "Rankings, standards, and competition: Task vs. scale comparisons," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 102(1), pages 95-108, January.
    3. Audia, Pino G. & Brion, Sebastien, 2007. "Reluctant to change: Self-enhancing responses to diverging performance measures," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 255-269, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lee, Sunyoung & Pitesa, Marko & Pillutla, Madan & Thau, Stefan, 2015. "When beauty helps and when it hurts: An organizational context model of attractiveness discrimination in selection decisions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 15-28.
    2. Vriend, Tim & Jordan, Jennifer & Janssen, Onne, 2016. "Reaching the top and avoiding the bottom: How ranking motivates unethical intentions and behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 142-155.


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