Asymmetric Social Comparison and Life Satisfaction in Social Networks

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The aim of this study is to understand the effect of asymmetric social comparison on subjective well-being, and how it differs due to reciprocity. Our approach considers the social network of individuals as a local reference group. We tested competing hypotheses on negative and positive effects of comparison with worse-off (downward) and better-off (upward) targets with a representative sample of 1,596 Chileans over the age of 18. The findings support that life satisfaction is influenced by social comparison. By considering the social network as a reference group, the positive effect of downward comparison and the negative effect of upward comparison are confirmed. Upward comparison seems to be more substantial than downward comparison. Additionally, the positive effect of downward comparison decreases slightly with a reciprocal exchange of support between respondents and targets. The application of social network analysis opens a path to understanding the mechanisms underlying social comparison processes.

Journal of Happiness Studies, 22, pages363–384