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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Comparisons Inform Me Who I Am: A General Comparative-Processing Model of Self-Perception

Morina N.
Perspectives on Psychological Science. 
February 2021. 

People’s self-concept contributes to their sense of identity over time. Yet self-perception is motivated and serves survival and thus does not reflect stable inner states or accurate biographical accounts. Research indicates that different types of comparison standards act as reference frames in evaluating attributes that constitute the self. However, the role of comparisons in self-perception has been underestimated, arguably because of lack of a guiding framework that takes into account relevant aspects of comparison processes and their interdependence. I propose a general comparative model of self-perception that consists of a basic comparison process involving the individual’s prior mental representation of the target dimension, the construal of the comparison standard, and the comparison outcome representing the posterior representation of the target dimension. The generated dimensional construal is then appraised with respect to one’s motives and controllability and goes on to shape emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses. Contextual and personal factors influence the comparison process. This model may be informative in better understanding comparison processes in people’s everyday lives and their role in shaping self-perception and in designing interventions to assist people overcome undesirable consequences of comparative behavior.

Concluding Remarks

Comparisons inform people about their current selves and their progress toward end goals. Comparative evaluations are omnipresent in everyday life, appear both unintentionally and intentionally, and are context sensitive. The current framework defines comparison as a dynamic process consisting of several subcomponents. The segmentation of the subcomponent processes into activation of comparison, basic comparison process, valuation, as well as emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses is not rigid; however, the taxonomy should prove conceptually useful because it breaks down the comparison process into testable constituent subprocesses. A better understanding of comparative behavior processes will enhance the knowledge of self-perception and help identify effective strategies that promote more adaptive comparisons.