Social Comparison and Illusions of Invulnerability to Negative Life Events

  • Linda S. Perloff
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)

Abstract

Nonvictims, individuals who have not been victimized by undesirable life events, often underestimate their own personal vulnerability to victimization relative to other people’s vulnerability. In other words, non-victims appear to have an illusion of unique invulnerability, in which they see themselves as less vulnerable to victimization than they see most other people (Perloff, 1983). This biased perception is reflected in the common saying, “It won’t happen to me,” a statement that generally implies that it will instead happen to others. Although many studies have demonstrated the existence of these illusions, we still know relatively little about the underlying causal mechanisms or the behavioral consequences of harboring these misperceptions. Past evidence suggests that people who feel invulnerable to victimization are less likely to engage in precautionary behaviors than are people who feel vulnerable (Becker, 1974; Haefner & Kirscht, 1970; Tyler, 1980). Thus, illusions of invulnerability may be dangerous insofar as they discourage adequate self-protective, preventive behavior (cf. Weinstein, 1980).

Keywords

Heart Attack Close Friend Social Comparison Average Person Negative Life Event 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda S. Perloff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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