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Feeling bad, but satisfied : the effects of upward and downward comparison upon mood and marital satisfaction

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Author: Buunk, B.P. · Ybema, J.F.
Source:British Journal of Social Psychology, 3, 42, 613-628
Identifier: 277144
Keywords: Workplace · Veilig en Gezond Werken · Platteland · Stress · Geestelijke overbelasting · Sociaal milieu · Gezinsachtergrond · Sociale omgeving · Sociale psychologie · Gehuwden · Vrouwen · Welzijn · Relatieproblemen


In a sample of 135 women from rural areas, the effects of social comparison with the marriage of another woman upon mood, identification and relationship evaluation were examined. Upward targets evoked a more positive mood, and a less negative mood than downward targets, while, in contrast, the evaluation of one's own relationship was more positive after being exposed to a downward target than after being exposed to an upward target. Upward targets and high-effort targets instilled more identification than downward and low-effort targets. A higher level of marital quality led to less identification with the downward targets and to more identification with the upward targets, particularly with targets who put a high degree of effort in the relationship. Identification mediated the association between marital quality and positive mood following upward comparison. The present study suggests that upward and downward comparison may have effects upon mood that are opposite to those upon self-evaluation, and demonstrates that happily married individuals may through identification with upward targets derive positive affective consequences from exposure to such targets.