People usually compare themselves to other people around them inorder to learn more about themselves or even just to check if they are better. However, once a threat to self-esteem enters the picture, people often adjust their strategy and choose to compare themselves with others who are worse off than they are.
Downward Social Comparison is defensive tendency to compare oneself with someone whose troubles are more serious than one’s own. Why do people change their strategies when under a threat? Simply because they need to feel better, often doing so by connecting to the experience of others. If you/your friend/family member has ever been in an accident in which the car was severely damaged you would have probably reassured yourself by reflecting on the fact that at least no one was seriously injured. Similarly, people with chronic illness may compare themselves with people suffering from life-threatening diseases
Let us look at another interesting aspect of Self Management. Suppose you and four other individuals have applied for the same Job and you are selected. How do you explain your success? Chances are high that you tell yourself you were hired as you were the most qualified. But how do the other four people interpret their negative outcome? Do they tell themselves that you got the job as you were the most able one? Highly unlikely! Instead, they attribute their loss to “bad luck” or not having sufficient time prepare for the interview or they were suffering from fever on the day of the interview etc.
These different explanations for success and failure reflect the Self Serving Bias –the tendency to attribute one’s success to personal positive factors and attribute one’s failure to situational factors. A logical explanation for Self-serving bias is that unbiased self-judgment requires a phenomenally high degree of self control, which, is usually overridden by one’s automatic inclination towards self enhancement.
Self serving bias is mostly prevalent in Western society or otherwise with people who have an individualistic approach as the emphasis on competition and high self esteem motivates people to try to impress others as well as themselves.