The interpersonal gap is the second main type of expectation that we have. That’s where we compare our reality to the reality of others. Put simply, we judge ourselves based on what we experience around us.
If you earn 50,000 dollars in a poor neighborhood, you’ll feel rich.
If you earn 50,000 dollars in a wealthy neighborhood, you’ll feel poor.
If you get a small pay rise, but everyone around you gets a large pay rise, you’ll be disappointed.
Your gain is someone’s pain; someone’s pain is your gain.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a zero-sum game, or so it seems.
And it’s not only relative income that matters; it’s also relative appearance that matters.
One person’s plastic surgery is another’s psychic loss.
Indeed, research has shown that we’re actually happier when we’re with worse looking people because we’re perceived by others to be objectively better looking.
So when your friend asks you to come to a bar or to a club with them, you know why.
And what’s particularly interesting about this is that we have an asymmetry of emphasis – we prioritize, we focus on one end of the spectrum.
We focus on the rich, the famous, the beautiful, and pay less attention to the other end.
And so we’re made to seem poorer, made to feel poorer, made to feel less successful than we actually are.
It’s almost as though we’re running on a hedonic treadmill, constantly striving to be happy, but getting no closer, because when our standard of living improves, if everyone else’s standard of living improves as well, we don’t always feel happier.
So that’s the second way in which we form expectations, based on others around us.