The Mindlessness of Social Comparisons and its Effect on Creativity

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 68-74, May 2010

17 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2010

See all articles by Ellen J. Langer

Ellen J. Langer

Harvard University - Department of Psychology

Laura Delizonna

Stanford University

Michael Pirson

Fordham University - Graduate School of Business Administration; Harvard University; Humanistic Management Network

Date Written: December 7, 2010

Abstract

Social Comparisons are ubiquitous phenomenon, for some researchers the key to evolutionary survival, for others key to understanding depression. Anybody engaged in artistic endeavors understands the relevance comparisons play throughout the creative process. In this article we examine the downside of social comparisons, the mindlessness of social comparison, specifically for the creative process. When we make social comparisons we tend to (a) be oblivious to the fact that we are making choices, (b) accept at face value that the comparison is meaningful and not transitory, (c) be unaware of its context-dependent nature, and (d) mindlessly accept the criteria on which the evaluation was based. When we open these up to scrutiny, comparisons make less sense. Alternative criteria, alternative aspects of the behavior, and alternative meanings for the performance could lead to very different conclusions. Research conducted in the context of art creation showed reduced negative consequences of social comparing for performance perceptions after a mindfulness treatment. Trait mindfulness as measured by the LMS supported the conclusions. Mindful groups, whether trait or state, evaluated their performance similar to the no social comparison group and both were less affected in their performance evaluations than the mindless group that made social comparisons. These findings can support all those engaged in creative processes to buffer against the negative consequences of social comparisons.

Keywords: Mindfulness, Social Comparison, Artistic Ability, Mindlessness, Performance, Creativity

JEL Classification: M00, Z00

Suggested Citation

Langer, Ellen J. and Delizonna, Laura and Pirson, Michael, The Mindlessness of Social Comparisons and its Effect on Creativity (December 7, 2010). Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 68-74, May 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1721666

Ellen J. Langer

Harvard University - Department of Psychology ( email )

33 Kirkland St
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Laura Delizonna

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Michael Pirson (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Graduate School of Business Administration ( email )

1790 Broadway 1147
New York, NY New York 10019
United States

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen
Switzerland

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
185
Abstract Views
1,259
rank
166,698
PlumX Metrics