Understanding and Managing Downward Social Comparisons in Knowledge Awareness
2011 - open-end
Supported by the Baden-Württemberg Program for Elite Postdoctoral Researchers (Eliteprogramm für Postdokorandinnen und Postdoktoranden)
This project investigates a tension between the structural requirements and social dynamics of effective collaborative learning. On one hand, collaborative learners need to be aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses so that more knowledgeable learners can provide the specific help that less knowledgeable learners need, that is, learners need to possess knowledge awareness. On the other hand, when collaborative learner’s become aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses, it introduces the potential for social comparison; learners can then evaluate their own intelligence and competence by comparing their knowledge to the knowledge of a learning partner. Our initial research suggests that highly knowledgeable learners who engage in this comparison process focus on maximizing the positivity of their self-evaluation instead of on the amount of information they or their learning partners learn. Specifically, we have demonstrated that knowledge awareness prompts knowledgeable learners who are predisposed to self-evaluate through comparison with other people to provide less helpful explanations to learning partners in need of assistance. Since highly knowledgeable learners are the ones most able to help other students learn, this behavior has the potential to badly undermine the effectiveness of collaborative learning. Our current research efforts focus on better understanding the situational antecedents of problematic self-evaluative social comparisons between collaborative learners as well as on developing collaborative learning techniques that have the potential to prevent this counterproductive behavior.
- Ray, D., Neugebauer, J., Sassenberg, K., Buder, J., & Hesse, F. W. (in press). Motivated shortcomings in explanation: The role of comparative self-evaluation and awareness of explanation recipient knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.