The theory of social comparison is based on the idea that people evaluate themselves by comparing themselves to others. This theory has been studied extensively in psychology and was first introduced by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954.

Who was Leon Festinger?

Leon Festinger was an American social psychologist who was born in New York City in 1919. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Iowa in 1942 and went on to teach at a number of universities, including Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What is the theory of social comparison?

According to Festinger’s theory, people compare themselves to others in order to evaluate their own abilities, opinions, and emotions. This comparison can be either upward (comparing oneself to someone who is better) or downward (comparing oneself to someone who is worse).

Festinger believed that people engage in social comparison for two main reasons: to reduce uncertainty about their own abilities and opinions, and to gain information about how they should behave.

How did Festinger develop this theory?

Festinger’s theory of social comparison was developed as part of his research into cognitive dissonance. He noticed that when people experience conflicting beliefs or behaviors, they often try to resolve this discomfort by changing one or more of their beliefs or behaviors.

In order to test this hypothesis, Festinger conducted a study involving a group of people who had just completed a boring task. Some participants were then told they would be paid $20 for lying and telling the next participant that the task had been fun, while others were only paid $1 for doing the same thing.

Festinger found that those who were paid $1 experienced more dissonance than those who were paid $20 because they had less justification for lying. However, those who were only paid $1 felt better about themselves when they compared themselves to those who were paid nothing at all.

This study demonstrated how social comparison can be used to reduce uncertainty and discomfort, and it laid the groundwork for Festinger’s theory of social comparison.

What are some practical applications of this theory?

Festinger’s theory of social comparison has many practical applications in fields such as marketing, education, and health.

For example, marketers often use social comparison to persuade people to buy their products by emphasizing how their products are better than those of their competitors. In education, teachers can use social comparison to motivate students by highlighting the achievements of their peers. And in health, doctors can use social comparison to encourage patients to adopt healthier behaviors by showing them how others have successfully made similar changes.


In conclusion, Leon Festinger’s theory of social comparison has had a significant impact on psychology and our understanding of human behavior. By comparing ourselves to others, we gain valuable information about our own abilities and opinions and reduce uncertainty about our place in the world. Understanding this theory can help us navigate a wide range of situations both in our personal lives and in society as a whole.