Social Comparison Theory Example: Understanding Our Tendency to Compare Ourselves with Others

As social beings, we often find ourselves comparing ourselves to others. We compare our looks, accomplishments, possessions, and even our happiness levels with those around us. This phenomenon is known as the social comparison theory.

What is the Social Comparison Theory?

The social comparison theory is a psychological theory that explains how people evaluate their own abilities and opinions by comparing themselves with others. Developed by psychologist Leon Festinger in the 1950s, the theory suggests that individuals have an innate drive to evaluate themselves and their worth based on how they stack up against others in society.

According to Festinger’s theory, there are two types of social comparisons:

Examples of Social Comparison Theory

Social comparison theory can be observed in many areas of our daily lives:

Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have made it easier than ever for people to engage in social comparisons. People often post pictures and updates highlighting their accomplishments and happy moments while omitting the less desirable aspects of their lives. This can create unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy in those who view their posts, leading to a negative impact on mental health.


In the workplace, social comparison theory can lead to unhealthy competition among employees. When employees are evaluated based on their performance compared to others, it can create a hostile work environment and negatively impact morale.


Social comparison theory also plays a significant role in consumerism. Advertisements often use images of attractive and successful people to sell products, creating an expectation that owning certain products will make us happier or more successful. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in those who cannot afford those products or do not possess them.


Social comparison theory is a natural phenomenon that affects us all to some extent. However, it’s essential to recognize when social comparisons are having a negative impact on our mental health or sense of self-worth. By focusing on our own strengths and accomplishments rather than comparing ourselves with others, we can cultivate a healthier mindset and outlook on life.