Social Comparison Theory and Mindsets in Everyday Life

On my first biology test in college, I received a 76%. I wasn’t sure what I did wrong, but all I knew was that I did worse than everyone else. I utilized upward social comparison to compare myself with people that did better than me on the test. Although this made me feel inferior, it helped me to reach my goal of excellence because I challenged myself and spent more hours in the library studying for the next test. I was able to keep going and not bring myself down too much because I have a growth mindset, instead of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is when you believe that you can achieve success through the advice of others, hard work, and trying new strategies when something doesn’t work. As a result of my first test grade, I went to more biology office hours, I studied more in the library, and I sought study advice from friends who had done well on the first biology test. If I had a fixed mindset, I would be more likely to give up when obstacles come my way and less likely to work harder after failing once. If I believe and tell myself I have what it takes, I know I can do better on succeeding tests. Learning about mindsets and motivation in my social psychology class is incredibly useful for my success in other classes because I perceive better my own abilities. I realize that after setbacks, the right approach is to improve my strategies for studying and not just believe that I”m not smart enough. After I received my first grade on my biology test I was upset, but after reading about mindsets in social psychology, it made me more aware of my own growth mindset and it was easier for me to bounce back from that disappointment.

Counterfactual Thinking: An Endless Mind Game

The night before my first test in Biology13, I dreamt about chemical bonds. After I took my biology test last Thursday, I could not stop going over the questions in my mind. I asked all my friends to compare answers and I was so sure I had done well. Fantastic! “I aced my first college biology test”, I thought. On Saturday, I received the email from canvas and I opened it hurriedly. To my dismay, the grade read “76%”. I immediately started crying and I scrambled through the test packet, checking over my answers with the answer key. I asked myself “What if I had done this instead?” or ”if only I studied an extra day for the exam”. I was employing counterfactual thinking by torturing myself by replaying the event of the exam in my mind, imagining what the difference would have been if I had studied some other way or maybe checked over my answers a fourth time. I kept thinking “if only I had gotten one less wrong, I would’ve gotten an 80”. This counterfactual thinking took a toll on me and I talked to my friend about it. She told me that it’s just the first test and to quit worrying. Because counterfactual thinking is conscious, it takes up so much of our mental energy and we obsess over it. Although it is a conscious process, it is not voluntary. It takes mental energy to also stop engaging in this. I wish I had been aware of counterfactual thinking in the past because, in high school, I used to obsess over grades that were not on par with my standards. I used to obsess over a B+ and think “what if” or “if only”. Although counterfactual thinking was harmful if I constantly worried about a test for days, it did come in handy at times because I would come up with different ways to study if I had done badly on a test the first time.

The Self-Destructive, Self-Fulfilling Propechy

All my life I’ve been shy. I always thought my shyness is just a defect of my personality, something that I can never break out of or change. This past weekend, I realized the mistake I have been making my entire life. I was in my friend’s dorm and her roommate invited over a bunch of people. As soon as people walked in, I immediately kept to a corner and didn’t really engage much with the people that walked in. As everyone was conversing, I kept thinking thoughts such as, “No one would want to talk to me, I’m so boring” or “I’m not charismatic as Becca, so I just shouldn’t contribute to the conversation”. I barely spoke to anyone because of these feelings of low self-esteem and later on, my friend asked me why I was so quiet. I realized what my mistake was when reviewing the self-fulfilling prophecy for Social Psychology. I am in a constant loop of a self-destructive self-fulfilling prophecy.  I blame myself for my “failure” in social situations and I internalize this.  Because I have these detrimental thoughts about my own behavior, I look even more unapproachable to people as I just keep quiet, which in turn furthers my expectations about my own behavior. I always feel like there has to be something wrong with me and that’s why people don’t want to talk to me, so I just keep to my own corner and seem very disengaged. If I was aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy I was putting onto myself, I would have forced myself to engage in conversation even if I seemed a bit awkward because it’s better than just sitting there in silence in a corner. My learning of this concept will most likely help me get out of my shell in future social situations and also will help me to not judge others who may be feeling the same way that I was.

To Help Or Not To Help? That is the Question

Friday night I went out with my friends to a party off-campus. I arrived at the party with two other girls and a male friend. A few hours later the party started to die down and as my friends and I were preparing to leave, I noticed one of my girlfriends was nowhere to be found. I’ve been debriefed countless times about the dangers of college parties so I began to worry. I called, texted her, and even went back into the house to look for her to no avail. 20 minutes later she called me and told me was in the upstairs bathroom and needed help going back to campus. This experience made me realize I was utilizing the 5 steps to helping in my quest to make sure my friend was okay, but there were some difficulties along the way. The first step to helping is noticing what is going on. As soon as the party died down and I noticed my friend was missing, that’s when I knew something was wrong, which leads us to the next step in helping: interpreting the event as an emergency (step 2). When she was clearly intoxicated and in need of help in the bathroom, I assumed responsibility (step 3) because others did not help her, maybe due to a large number of people present in the house (diffusion of responsibility). I knew the appropriate form of assistance (step 4) was to help her up, walk her back to her dorm, and provide her with water and food. This could arise issues because many people have not had the experience to know what to do in that situation, which would result in a break in the model, leading to a lack of intervention. I was able to implement this decision (step 5) because intervening did not pose a physical danger to me and the costs of helping her did not outweigh the benefits. If others were aware of the diffusion of responsibility and the 5 steps to helping, they might have been able to also offer her assistance.