Rebuilding life after a brain injury: Do social comparisons help patients cope?
This was the first study to examine the social comparison process in brain-injured patients. Patients participating in rehabilitation were asked how they were coping in comparison to others and whether they preferred information about another patient who was "worse-off" or "better-off" across different domains (e.g., coping, physical functioning, ability to work). They also rated their mood and motivation after listening to a well adjusted (i.e., UT: upward target) and poorly adjusted target (i.e., DT, downward target). Patients made favorable comparisons when forced to compare. Preferences for comparison information varied based on the specific domain, due, perhaps to the perceived controllability or esteem-relevance of the domain. Forced exposure to the DT resulted in more negative affect as compared to exposure to the UT. Individual differences in perceived control determined affective responses to the DT and UT, such that higher levels of control were associated with less negative affect following either target and more positive affect following the UT. The inclusion of multiple measures provides an overview of the comparison process in a rehabilitation setting. Taken together, the results suggest that rehabilitation professionals should not offer comparison information unless they consider the specific domain and individual differences in perceived control. Future studies might examine the comparison process over time and use behavioral measures of persistence.