Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Reference Group Effect

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_840-1


The Reference Group Effect (RGE) describes “the confounding role of context in comparisons of mean questionnaire responses across different groups” (Heine et al. 2002, p. 904).


According to social comparison theory (Festinger 1954), people seek for evaluation of their or others characteristics since an inaccurate estimation of characteristics can lead to negative consequences in a variety of situations. If objective means are not given, the evaluations derive from comparisons with others. Heine et al. (2002) adopted this idea and suggested that such comparison processes might be the underlying mechanism of the Reference Group Effect (RGE) which describes “the confounding role of context in comparisons of mean questionnaire responses across different groups” (Heine et al. 2002, p. 904).

In the following, we will (i) introduce the RGE in more detail and (ii) explain how it can affect personality research. Furthermore, we will (iii) follow up with implications for...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Section editors and affiliations

  • Patrizia Velotti
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational SciencesUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly
  2. 2.Sapienza University of RomeRomeItaly