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Abstract

Incidental envy is known to motivate self-improvement behavior. This phenomenon occurs in part because feelings of inferiority guide subsequent behavior in a way to self-improve, after experiencing envy. However, no research has yet examined whether this tendency may be affected by social context: private versus public. Although extant literature suggests that envy generally leads to self-improvement, we demonstrate that this effect may be mitigated under public social contexts. Across two studies, we find that although incidental envy generally increases self-improvement behavior (e.g., effort exertion and charitable giving) in private social contexts, this tendency is attenuated under public social contexts. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications of this finding.

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