Social comparison and a defensive social mentality : an evolutionary perspective of group living
Evolutionary psychology is becoming an area of increasing interest for understanding and explaining human cognition, emotion and behaviour. One key area of this field relates to our heritage of social living and the impact that this has upon our inherited psychological makeup. The study aimed to consider the relationship between a number of variables related to this area guided by a basic theoretical model derived from the literature. The variables considered were social comparisons, two types of social anxiety, submissive behaviour and paranoid social cognitions. The study used a correlational design on a clinical group (N=31) and non-clinical comparison group (N=27) of subjects. A between groups analysis was also undertaken. For the clinical group social comparisons were found to be significantly correlated with scrutiny social anxiety. In turn scrutiny social anxiety was found to be significantly correlated with both paranoid social cognitions and submissive behaviour. For the comparison group, no significant correlations were found between social comparison and the other variables. However, social scrutiny anxiety was again found to significantly correlate with paranoid social cognitions and submissive behaviour. Between group analyses showed highly significant differences between the groups on all variables measured. The results for the clinical group broadly supported the model put forward whilst this was not the case for the comparison group. The clinical group results indicated that where individuals took on a more subordinate role they would also assume a more competitive and defensive posture in their interactions with others. This was considered to form the basis of an evolutionary prepared set of responses that facilitate group living in the context of social hierarchies. The differing results obtained for the comparison group were discussed as were the clinical and wider implications of the findings.