The positive effects of upward comparison: Can they coexist with the big-fish-little-pond effect?

Year: 2005

Author: Seaton, Marjorie, Marsh, Herb

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Social comparison research has demonstrated that upward comparisons can enhance academic performance (Blanton, Buunk, Gibbons & Kuyper, 1999; Huguet, Dumas, Monteil & Genestoux, 2001). Conversely, educational research on the big-fish-little-pond effect (BFLPE) has implied that upward comparisons result in lowered self-evaluations of academic ability (Craven, Marsh & Print, 2000; Davis, 1966; Marsh & Hau, 2003; Marsh, Koller & Baumert., 2001). By re-analysing data from the Blanton et al. study, and the Huguet et al. study, the present investigation aimed to ascertain whether upward comparisons could simultaneously enhance academic performance, and produce lower self-evaluations as predicted by the BFLPE. Participants were Dutch and French high school students, who completed a questionnaire assessing academic self-evaluation and comparison choices. Performance was measured by accessing end of semester grades. Using a multi-level modelling approach, a BFLPE emerged. Implications for educational policy were discussed.