We show two examples of how attenuating school-context-generated automatic social comparison leads to an increase in students’ academic self-concept (ASC), which is known to regulate the effort students put into education. In Study 1, we exploited COVID-19 induced home-based education to find that students’ ASC in reading and writing increased outside the school context. In Study 2, we activated/attenuated the school context by different priming in a randomized survey experiment. Here, we found that students who first reported their ASC, and subsequently their grades, had higher ASC in reading (but not in writing) than those who first reported their grades. The results indicate that social comparison might indirectly harm students’ educational achievement and attainment via their ASC.
Keywords: Academic self-concept, Social comparison, Randomized experiment