Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science





First Advisor

Patrick I. Armstrong


Vocational theorists have long recognized the important role of social surroundings for a career decision-maker. Social comparison theory would suggest that the career decision maker identify and compare themselves with other people (targets of comparison) on relevant dimensions in order to gain more information about themselves. Social comparison is particularly prevalent in situations of ambiguity or uncertainty such as that which is inherent in occupational choice. Given the minimal research conducted in combining these areas within the literature, a primary purpose of this study was exploring an appropriate methodology for addressing the questions of how social comparison operates in academic and occupational choice. Another purpose was to explore the salient factors and dimension in this process. A clear difference emerged in primed versus unprimed methodology, in which participants were explicitly asked about their own social comparison behaviors and preferences in occupational decision making either before or after rating fictional career speakers, which served as comparison targets. This finding supported the first hypothesis in this study. Differences also emerged regarding the method in which participant preferences were indicated via rating or ranking of comparison targets. In general, upward targets were chosen or evaluated more highly as comparison targets, providing support for the second hypothesis. Also, as the third hypothesis predicted, various participant variables, such as vocational interests, sex, career aspirations, and gender self-concept influenced their evaluation and selection of some comparison targets.


Copyright Owner

Elizabeth M. TenBrook



File Format


File Size

131 pages