It’S Not Just Me: the Role of Inferences About Reference Distributions on Estimates of One’S Own Comparative Performance

Andrew Gershoff, University of Michigan, USA
Katherine Burson, University of Michigan, USA
Prior research finds robust better- and worse-than-average biases in social comparison, and frequently attributes them to a failure to consider information about others. We propose an alternative mechanism. We find that participants do rely on distributional information about others in their percentile estimates. However, the information is often flawed. Specifically, they tend to overestimate the dispersion of the distribution of others. We show that this error can account for both better- and worse-than-average effects. Furthermore, distributional inferences are labile; simple manipulations such as scale granularity and exemplar availability can influence imagined distributions and hence the valence of the biases.
[ to cite ]:
Andrew Gershoff and Katherine Burson (2010) ,"It’S Not Just Me: the Role of Inferences About Reference Distributions on Estimates of One’S Own Comparative Performance", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 20-23 .