THE BIG-FISH-LITTLE-POND EFFECT: ITS INTERACTION WITH EDUCATIONAL CLIMATE ON STUDENTS' SELF-CONCEPT
Cheng, R. and Lam, S.F., The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The negative Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect (BFLPE) indicated that when students compare themselves with more able schoolmates (upward comparison), they will have lower academic self-concepts. While in the positive BFLPE, students will have higher self-concepts when they compare themselves with less able schoolmates (downward comparison). The present study further extended the work on BFLPE by exploring the interaction of educational climate and comparison standard on students' self-concept. This was a 3 X 2 between-subjects design with 3 educational climates (contrast, assimilation and control) by 2 comparison standards (upward and downward comparison). Consistent with BFLPE, responses from 158 Chinese seventh-graders revealed that in downward comparison, students who were asked to contrast their performance against those of their schoolmates had significantly higher self-concepts than those who were not asked to do so. However, results also indicated that upward comparison would not necessarily lead to lower self- concepts if the students were primed to assimilate their self-evaluation to the performance of their schoolmates. These results implied that the outcome of social comparison as indicated in BFLPE depends very much on whether contrast or assimilation effect was emphasized in classroom.