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The grass is always greener-- or is it? : the consequences of variability of information and relationship uncertainty in the relationship social comparison process /

by Smith LeBeau, Lavonia.

Abstract (Summary)
iii Prior research indicates that chronic social comparison tendencies (i.e., comparisons with other people) lead to negative evaluation. The current research addresses why this association exists. Two studies tested the hypotheses that direction and variability of comparison information, and relationship uncertainty play important roles in explaining this association in romantic relationships. Study 2 also tested the hypothesis that the relationship social comparison (RSC) process has ironic consequences in that people seek comparisons to reduce uncertainty; however exposure to variable comparisons increases uncertainty. Participants were either exposed to (Exp 1) or allowed to seek (Exp 2) variable or nonvariable RSCs and then completed measures of relationship uncertainty and evaluation. Across the two studies, contrary to predictions, manipulated direction and variability of RSCs did not predict relationship evaluation. Self-reported direction and variability of RSCs did partially support predictions. Consistent with predictions, as participants rated the RSCs as more upward (better than their relationship) versus downward (worse than their relationship), or more variable, relationship evaluation became more negative. Consistent with variability predictions, but inconsistent with direction predictions, relationship uncertainty mediated the effect of direction and variability on relationship evaluation. Finally, Study 2 illustrated that rather than alleviating uncertainty, increased variable comparison seeking lead to increases in uncertainty. These results have important implications for social comparison theory. As the first studies to expose participants to multiple comparisons in various directions results indicate that variability is an important factor in the RSC process. Thus, implicating that future research must include exposure to multiple comparisons in various directions to understand the comparison process. Second, relationship uncertainty mediated the effect of direction of RSCs on relationship evaluation, indicating that uncertainty does more than moderate the effect of comparison direction on evaluation. Finally, Study 2 highlights the ironic consequences of the iv RSC process, in that those who receive variable comparison information report increases rather than decreases in uncertainty. These results suggest the need for future longitudinal studies allowing the comparison process to play out over time. This step would allow researchers to examine both predictors of comparison seeking and the outcomes that result from receiving comparison information.
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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