Social comparison, a widespread phenomenon in human society, has been found to affect outcome evaluation. The need to belong to a social group may result in distinct neural responses to diverse social comparison outcomes. To extend previous studies by examining how social comparison with hierarchical characteristics is temporally processed, electroencephalography responses were recorded in the current study. Participants played a lottery game with two pseudo-players simultaneously and received both their own and the other two players’ outcomes. Results of three event-related potential components, including the P2, the feedback-related negativity (FRN), and the late positive component (LPC), indicate that social comparison manifests in three stages. First, outcomes indicating a different performance from others elicited a larger P2 than evenness. Second, the FRN showed hierarchical sensitivity to social comparison outcomes. This effect manifested asymmetrically. Finally, large difference between the participant’s outcome and the other two players’ evoked a larger LPC than the medium difference and the even condition. We suggest that during social comparison, people detect if there is any difference between self and others, and then evaluate the information of this difference hierarchically, and finally interpret the situations in which oneself deviates from the group as most motivationally salient.
Luo, Y., Feng, C., Wu, T., Broster, L. S., Cai, H., Gu, R. & Luo, Y. (2015). Social Comparison Manifests in Event-related Potentials. Scientific Reports, 5, 12127. doi:10.1038/srep12127.