This article originally appeared in Psychology Today.

An article to be published in the August 2021 issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, by Zell and Lesick of the University of North Carolina, explores an extreme form of self-other comparison called the frog-pond effect.

The frog-pond effect 

We all compare ourselves with others—in terms of looks, health, personality, academic abilities, work skills, wealth, etc. These comparisons can affect our self-esteem and self-confidence. (For the purposes of this article, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-evaluation will be used interchangeably.)


An effect commonly observed in social comparisons is called the frog-pond or the big-fish-little-pond effect: People tend to feel better about themselves when they are a big fish (i.e. have a high rank) in a little pond (i.e. a group with a low rank) than when they are a little fish (i.e. have a low rank) in a big pond (i.e. high-ranking group).