A Reflection and Evaluation Model of Comparative Thinking
This article reviews research on counterfactual, social, and temporal comparisons and proposes a Reflection and Evaluation Model (REM) as an organizing framework. At the heart of the model is the assertion that 2 psychologically distinct modes of mental simulation operate during comparative thinking: reflection, an experiential (“as if”) mode of thinking characterized by vividly simulating that information about the comparison standard is true of, or part of, the self; and evaluation, an evaluative mode of thinking characterized by the use of information about the standard as a reference point against which to evaluate one's present standing. Reflection occurs when information about the standard is included in one's self-construal, and evaluation occurs when such information is excluded. The result of reflection is that standard-consistent cognitions about the self become highly accessible, thereby yielding affective assimilation; whereas the result of evaluation is that comparison information is used as a standard against which one's present standing is evaluated, thereby yielding affective contrast. The resulting affect leads to either an increase or decrease in behavioral persistence as a function of the type of task with which one is engaged, and a combination of comparison-derived causal inferences and regulatory focus strategies direct one toward adopting specific future action plans.