The Effects of In-Group versus Out-Group Social Comparison on Self-Esteem in the Context of a Negative Stereotype
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Upward comparison with members of an in-group can be both enhancing and threatening to self-esteem (Brewer & Weber, 1994). According to Tesser's (1986, 1988) self-evaluation maintenance model (SEM), the superior performance of in-group members should be threatening when comparisons are made on ability domains that are relevant to self-esteem. We argue that such comparisons will instead be enhancing if the superior other's performance challenges negative ability stereotypes about the group. In a laboratory experimental study, 60 African American female participants were given feedback on a bogus IQ test under conditions designed to increase the salience of negative stereotypes. Participants were then exposed to either upward or downward social comparison information about the performance of a White or African American female confederate. A contrast effect was observed when the confederate was White such that participants reported higher state self-esteem in the downward social comparison condition than in the upward social comparison condition. When the confederate was African American, an assimilation effect was observed such that participants reported higher state self-esteem in the upward social comparison condition than in the downward social comparison condition. These results do not appear consistent with SEM and indicate that people are at times encouraged when close others outperform them on important tasks. © 2000 Academic Press.
author list (cited authors)
Blanton, H., Crocker, J., & Miller, D. T.