Shifting social identities as a strategy for deflecting threatening social comparisons

Thomas Mussweiler*, Shira Gabriel, Galen V. Bodenhausen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Results of three studies suggest that the multifaceted nature of identity provides a strategic basis for reducing the threat involved in upward social comparisons. After performing worse than a comparison standard, people may strategically emphasize aspects of their identity that differentiate them from the standard, thereby making the standard less relevant for self-evaluation. On the basis of previous research showing that persons low in self-esteem are less likely to make effective use of self-protection strategies, we hypothesized that this strategy of deflecting the threat involved in upward comparison (i.e., decreasing perceived comparability by emphasizing an unshared social identity) would be used primarily by persons who are characteristically high in self-esteem. This pattern was confirmed in three studies. Moreover, use of the strategy was associated with relatively more positive affect following threatening upward comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-409
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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