Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 36-44

First online:

Frequent Social Comparisons and Destructive Emotions and Behaviors: The Dark Side of Social Comparisons

  • Judith B. WhiteAffiliated withTuck School of Business, Dartmouth College Email author 
  • , Ellen J. LangerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Harvard University
  • , Leeat YarivAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of California
  • , John C. WelchIVAffiliated withChapman University

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Social comparisons may seem to serve several positive functions, including self-enhancement. Frequent social comparisons, however, have a dark side. Two studies examined the relationship between frequent social comparisons and destructive emotions and behaviors. In Study 1, people who said they made frequent social comparisons were more likely to experience envy, guilt, regret, and defensiveness, and to lie, blame others, and to have unmet cravings. In Study 2, police officers who said they made frequent social comparisons were more likely to show ingroup bias and to be less satisfied with their jobs. The dark side of frequent social comparisons was not associated with self-esteem. Results are discussed in terms of the role of individual differences in social comparison processes.


social comparison styles well-being self-esteem.