Barker, Paul ORCID: 0000-0002-0640-9996 (2020). A New Standard for Comparison Research: Uncovering the Dynamic Interactive Pattern of Comparative Judgments and its Implications. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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Social judgments of the self or others are often made in comparison to some standard in the environment. How these standards influence our judgments depends heavily on their relative standing on the evaluative dimension of interest compared to the target of the judgment. Despite this consequential role, researchers have often selected items and comparison standards somewhat arbitrarily, either ignoring or simplifying their influence substantially. The current dissertation will argue that this poses serious issues for the generalisability and validity of such findings, preventing strong tests of theory. Instead, it will offer a new more holistic approach to the investigation of the comparison process which takes this key variable into account. In the first chapter, a brief overview of the comparative process and the influence of comparison standards will be given to highlight these potential issues. Chapter 2 will then show that standards with the same relative distance to the target can potentially lead to opposing comparison effects simply due to item selection alone. Chapter 3 confirms this heterogeneity at the item level, and uncovers the dynamic interactive pattern of assimilation and contrast, showing that the dichotomisation of the relative distance between target and standard into ‘Moderate’ or ‘Extreme’ standards can be problematic. Chapter 4 will show how this dynamic pattern shifts in response to other moderating variables, like a comparative focus on similarities or differences. Thereby, this chapter also offers a new paradigm that can robustly test theoretical predictions, while avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls. Finally, the last chapter will offer some concluding thoughts about the implications for the literature, limitations of the current work, and offer recommendations for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-357612
Date: 23 July 2020
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Human Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Human Sciences > Department Psychologie
Subjects: Psychology
Social sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Social comparisonEnglish
Facial evaluationsEnglish
Date of oral exam: 17 December 2020
NameAcademic Title
Imhoff, RolandProf. Dr.
Unkelbach, ChristianProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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