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On the effects of social, temporal, and dimensional comparisons on academic self-concept
Wolff, F., Helm, F., Zimmermann, F., Nagy, G., Möller, J.

On the effects of social, temporal, and dimensional comparisons on academic self-concept

Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(7), 1005-1025. DOI: 10.1037/edu0000248

Students evaluate their domain-specific abilities by comparing their own achievement in a certain domain with the achievement of others (social comparison), with their own prior achievement (temporal comparison), and with their own achievement in other domains (dimensional comparison). This article is the first to analyze the simultaneous effects of social, temporal, and dimensional comparisons on students’ academic self-concepts of various domains in experimental and field studies. In Study 1 (N = 120), students judged their ability self-concept after having received experimentally manipulated social, temporal, and dimensional comparison feedback. In Study 2 (N = 924), students had to rate their math and German self-concept and were asked to directly compare their achievement to social, temporal, and dimensional comparison standards. In the longitudinal Study 3a (N = 3,054) and 3b (N = 14,008), the three types of comparisons were modeled in an extended internal/external frame of reference model (Marsh, 1986) containing paths from math and verbal achievement level and achievement change to math and verbal self-concept. In all studies, social, temporal, and dimensional comparisons showed significant effects on self-concept. For each comparison process, downward comparisons with worse-off standards resulted in higher self-concepts, whereas upward comparisons with better-off standards resulted in lower self-concepts. These results are in accordance with the theories underlying social, temporal, and dimensional comparison processes and support their integration into a combined framework.