social sciences

Let’s Hypothesize: Facebook and Envy

For my bachelor thesis, I looked at the relationship between envy, Facebook use, and maximizing. My research was carried out using convenience sampling on a small sample, so while the results were significant, the question is whether these are externally valid. Therefore, this post will be more of a speculation.

In this study, we asked participants to fill out a questionnaire that assessed their Facebook use, envy, and maximization. Questions on the Facebook use scale looked at constructs such as time spent on the social media platform. Envy measured how likely people are to feel desire towards others’ possessions or life experiences. And lastly, the maximization questionnaire measured whether people tend to chase the ‘best’ in their lives. People who score high on this trait tend to always strive for the best possible outcome. This means, for instance, that when they are watching TV and they are already watching a TV show that they like, they will still flip through the other channels to make sure that they are watching the best possible show on TV at the moment. You can imagine that these individuals have a hard time making decisions as well, as they are always on the lookout for something better. This trait can influence relationships, shopping habits, or life satisfaction.

The underlying idea was that those who score high on maximization tend to be more envious of others. Seeing someone else with a better alternative than you do, would then elicit feelings of envy.
Facebook is a virtual space where a lot of social information is shared. This social media platform seems to have a positivity bias, especially before the introduction of the ‘react buttons’. In the past, users were only able to ‘like’ posts. Users can also filter content and decide what they would like to share on Facebook. Thus, users can actively engage in impression management and share information that they want to show publicly. This means that Facebook users might be more likely to post positive information regarding themselves.

Therefore, scrolling down the Facebook timeline, you will be exposed to social information that will be interpreted as positive by most. These can be posts related to successful life events, such as promotions, vacations, weddings, or academic achievements. And of course, you could argue that any of these milestones can elicit envy in any type of person, regardless of whether they score high on maximization or not. However, those who do score high on this trait might feel more envious than others. The problem is, that too much envy, in this case, might lead to stress, life dissatisfaction, or even depression. Because there is a high chance that there will always be someone on your timeline who performed better than you did in any of these categories.

What makes it worse is that maximizers are always on the lookout for information regarding the best possible option. Thus, one could reason that it might be difficult for them to stop using such social media platforms. As the social information that can be found on sites such as Facebook can give them insight into how they are doing themselves. Therefore, the existence of social media has made it almost effortless for these individuals to engage in social comparison. So, if this does lead to depression or a decrease in life satisfaction, it might be a good idea to spend less time on such social platforms.

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social sciences

Are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

Those of you who happened to be a part of the research I conducted for my bachelor thesis, might have filled in a survey related to maximizing. This was one of the important constructs for the hypotheses I came up with. But what exactly is maximizing and what are its implications? Maximizing is the tendency of going for the best option out there. This means that you will keep looking for newer and better options, despite having already found something that is “just good enough”. Whereas someone else might adopt a satisficing strategy, using this method, you will stop looking after having found a good enough option (Misuraca & Teuscher, 2013).

If you are a consumer who is always looking for better products, even if you have already found something you like, you might be a maximizer.

Whether you adopt maximizing or satisficing strategies has implications for several cognitive abilities and perceptions.

  • First of all, Misuraca et al 2013 found in one of their experiments that maximizers and satisficers have different perceptions of time. Those who want to skim through all of the available options (maximizers), seem to underestimate the time that they spend checking out all options. Whereas satisficers overestimated their used time! In conclusion, in a decision-making task, maximizers will end up processing more information.
  • But it is also interesting to look at other constructs that might be correlated with maximizing. A team of researchers looked at regret, neuroticism, indecisiveness, avoidance, neuroticism, and life satisfaction. They found that maximizers are just as happy as satisficers! The only difference, according to them, was that maximers are more likely to experience regret (Diab, Gillespie, & Highhouse, 2008). Here you could reason that after having made a decision, maximizers will still be on the lookout for better options. Therefore the chances of experiencing regret are much greater.
  • Different research has indicated that maximizers tend to be more future orientated. Thus they might also be more likely to strive for achieving higher goals in order to create a better future for themselves. Another finding from the same study covered the hypothesis that maximizers are just better numerically. Their capacity to understand numerical information might be better because they are often involved in compromising to get the best available option (Misuraca, Teuscher, & Carmeci, 2015).
  • Chang, et al (2011) found that maximizing is related to perfectionism.
  • Another fascinating article looked at maximizers as sports fans. What they found is that maximizers identified more strongly with unsuccessful sports teams. In the article there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation as to why this could be the case. They further explain that maximizers are more engaged with their team and buy more tickets and attend more games (Norris, Wann, & Zapalac, 2015).
  • But maximizing can also have negative implications. For example, in a World Cup betting experiment, maximizers were overconfident and worse in betting than satisficers (Schwartz, et al 2002).
  • Lai, L. (2011) found that maximizers tended to be less loyal consumers, they are more likely to switch to a different provider.

These are just a fraction of the findings on the implications of maximizing, and a lot of research still needs to be done on this decision-making strategy. From a seller’s perspective, it could be interesting to incorporate this into marketing campaigns. By ensuring maximizers that they have found the best possible option or deal, it could be easier to persuade them to buy your product. And from the perspective of a maximizer, it could be beneficial to know that you have these tendencies and are aware of where your regret is coming from when you have bought a certain product. And if there are any detrimental outcomes to adopting a maximizing strategy, mental health care practitioners should also be aware of this implications. For example, if there is a correlation between shopping addictions and/or materialism and maximizing.


Chang, E. C., Lin, N. J., Herringshaw, A. J., Sanna, L. J., Fabian, C. G., Perera, M. J., & Marchenko, V. V. (2011). Understanding the link between perfectionism and adjustment in college students: Examining the role of maximizing. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(7), 1074-1078.

Diab, D. L., Gillespie, M. A., & Highhouse, S. (2008). Are maximizers really unhappy? The measurement of maximizing tendency. Judgment and Decision Making, 3(5), 364.

Lai, L. (2011). Maximizing and customer loyalty: Are maximizers less loyal?.Judgment and Decision Making, 6(4), 307.

Misuraca, R., & Teuscher, U. (2013). Time flies when you maximize—Maximizers and satisficers perceive time differently when making decisions.Acta psychologica, 143(2), 176-180.

Misuraca, R., Teuscher, U., & Carmeci, F. A. (2015). Who are maximizers? Future oriented and highly numerate individuals. International Journal of Psychology.

Norris, J. I., Wann, D. L., & Zapalac, R. K. (2015). Sport fan maximizing: following the best team or being the best fan?. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 32(3), 157-166.

Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1178.

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