Most of us have probably heard of the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" but how many of us have stopped to really think about all that phrase implies? Chapter 13 of our, book titled "Social Psychology," looks at the ways in which our interactions with those around us affect us and help us to understand how we view ourselves in relation to others and how we interact in social settings.
The Social Comparison Theory struck me as interesting. It says that we evaluate our abilities and believes by comparing them with others. For example, to evaluate how well I am doing in this course, I may use the scores of my peers to gain a perspective of my overall grade. The book suggests two type of comparisons: downward social comparisons (comparing with those who are inferior) and upward social comparison (comparing with those of a higher level).
Such comparisons can have devastating results. This article demonstrates the ways in which American consumerism patterns and desire to compare themselves to those of the highest social class have led political leaders in Africa to devote millions of dollars to frivolous status enhancers such as marble floors while the majority of the population lives in the slums.