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Social Comparison, Competition and Marriage

Glenn S. Sanders and Jerry Suls
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 44, No. 3 (Aug., 1982), pp. 721-730
DOI: 10.2307/351592
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/351592
Page Count: 10
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Social Comparison, Competition and Marriage
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Abstract

Several views have been expressed concerning reactions of marital partners to how well they compare with each other in competitive situations. Intimacy may make performance comparisons particularly salient so that spouses react strongly to competitive outcomes. On the other hand, marital partners may suppress the implications of performance comparisons in the interests of maintaining a sense of unity. The present study recruited married couples through newspaper ads and had them compete on a test of mental flexibility. Husbands and wives were randomly determined to be winners and losers in the competition. Evaluations of task, situation, and ability were significantly affected by competitive outcome. Furthermore, spouses reacted as strongly to competition with each other as they did to competition with a stranger. Females were more affected by competitive outcome than were males, and this was particularly true of intramarital competition. The effect of individual differences on these results was explored. Overall, it appears that spouses can be affected substantially by intramarital comparison and competition, indicating that these forces may have a disruptive effect on the sense of unity produced by intimacy.

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