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Although social comparison (Festinger, 1954) and temporal comparison (Albert, 1977) theories are well established, dimensional comparison is a largely neglected yet influential process in self-evaluation. Dimensional comparison entails a single individual comparing his or her ability in a (target) domain with his or her ability in a standard domain (e.g., “How good am I in math compared with English?”). This article reviews empirical findings from introspective, path-analytic, and experimental studies on dimensional comparisons, categorized into 3 groups according to whether they address the “why,” “with what,” or “with what effect” question. As the corresponding research shows, dimensional comparisons are made in everyday life situations. They impact on domain-specific self-evaluations of abilities in both domains: Dimensional comparisons reduce self-concept in the worse off domain and increase self-concept in the better off domain. The motivational basis for dimensional comparisons, their integration with recent social cognitive approaches, and the interdependence of dimensional, temporal, and social comparisons are discussed.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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