Taking a Measure of Comparative Thinking: Attention Allocation to Comparison Standards
Humans make sense of the world and themselves by calibrating their impressions, judgments and behavior in a comparative manner. Although almost any human judgment is at least partially based on such comparisons, the extent to which comparative thinking is involved varies considerably across situations. People compare more when they feel insecure or stressed or have been procedurally primed to do so. Such differences in comparative processing are utterly consequential, as social comparisons pave the way for affective reactions like envy, for cognitive processing advantages, and for the subsequent adjustment of performance behavior. Thus, although differences in the extent of comparative processing are meaningful and influential, previous efforts to validly measure these differences have remained rudimentary. In the current project we want to fill this gap and develop a new reliable and valid indirect measure of comparative processing that aims to tap into early processes of attentional adhesion to pertinent comparison standards. Doing so, we will follow a trend that has been successful in other fields of social and clinical psychology by building on the advances of attentional measures as relatively pure indicators of highly automatic processes unlikely to be contaminated by strategic control or social desirability. We plan to adapt and test a Modified Spatial Cueing Task to assess attention allocation to comparison standards.