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Social Comparison, Psychological Distance, and Conflict

Social comparisons can promote conflict by triggering envy and resentment. The current work advances our understanding of social comparison and conflict by, first, identifying an important dimension of social comparisons--”diagnosticity”--second, showing that people are influenced by social comparison information even when they should not be, and third, testing an intervention to mitigate this tendency. Across three experiments, we show that people chronically overlook the diagnosticity of social comparison—a tendency termed “diagnosticity neglect.” But we find that manipulating people’s “psychological distance” from comparisons causes them to better distinguish between diagnostic and nondiagnostic comparison information. This process is mediated by people making less self-relevant attributions—that is, taking nondiagnostic comparisons less personally. Taken together, this research identifies an important antecedent of conflict—diagnosticity neglect in social comparison—and highlights a powerful intervention to mitigate it.

Daniel Yudkin
University of Pennsylvania
United States

Maurice Schweitzer
Wharton School
United States


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