Leon Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory Explained

Leon Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory is a psychological theory that explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to others. According to this theory, people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves and their abilities, and they do this by comparing themselves to others.

What is the Social Comparison Theory?

The Social Comparison Theory was first introduced by social psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954. The theory suggests that people have a natural tendency to compare themselves with others in order to evaluate their own opinions, abilities, and traits.

This comparison can happen either with similar or dissimilar individuals. The theory states that people determine their own worth based on how they stack up against others.

This comparison process can occur either through direct interaction with others or through indirect means like social media, television shows, movies or books. People use these comparisons as a form of evaluation which helps them understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

Why Do People Compare Themselves To Others?

People compare themselves to others for various reasons. One of the primary reasons is self-evaluation.

By comparing themselves with others, they get an idea of where they stand in terms of ability, knowledge or skills. This helps them assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Another reason why people compare themselves with others is for self-improvement. When one identifies someone who has better skills or knowledge than them in a particular area, they try to learn from them so that they can improve in that area.

Social comparison also helps individuals define their identity and sense of self. When an individual compares himself/herself to someone else, it helps him/her understand the traits that he/she values most highly.

Social Comparison Theory Types

There are two types of social comparisons:

Upward Social Comparison

In upward social comparison, individuals compare themselves with others who are better than them. This form of comparison can be motivational as it inspires individuals to work harder to improve their skills or abilities.

Downward Social Comparison

In downward social comparison, individuals compare themselves with those who are worse off than them. This form of comparison can be comforting as it helps individuals feel better about themselves and their abilities.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Comparison Theory

The social comparison theory has its benefits and drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons:



The Bottom Line

The Social Comparison Theory developed by Leon Festinger suggests that people have an innate need to evaluate themselves by comparing themselves with others. While social comparison has its benefits, it is essential for individuals not to let external factors define their worth. Instead, they should focus on self-improvement and self-appreciation.