Social Comparisons: Coping with Illness

#Health Psychology Consultancy.

Health Psychology Consultancy

Social Comparison Theory was first developed by Festinger in 1954.  It is described as:

“There exists in the human organism, a drive to evaluate his opinions and abilities” (p. 117).

Festinger argued that people tend to make comparisons with similar others, however, two types of social comparison have emerged:

  • Upward Comparisons: the tendency to compare ourselves to people who we feel are superior to us on a particular dimension (e.g. comparing ourselves to models).

  • Downward Comparisons: the tendency to compare ourselves to people we view as being inferior to us on a particular dimension (e.g. comparing ourselves to those with a chronic illness).

Social comparisons have been widely reported by people who are ill (Gibbons and Gerrard, 1991).

This tendency to carry out social comparisons when we are ill can, in part, be explained by Crisis Theory (Moos and Schaefer, 1984):

People in crisis are particularly susceptible to external influences. 

When…

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