Overview of the Construal Level Theory: history of formation, main provisions and research potential

116

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of Construal Level Theory (CLT), which was founded by Nira Liberman and Yakov Trope. CLT describes the relationship between psychological distance (subjective experience of remoteness of a phenomenon) and the level of its construal (representation) in consciousness. According to this theory, phenomena perceived more distant, will be presented in a more abstract way in the mind of the subject. At the moment CLT is one of the most actively developing interdisciplinary psychological theories. At the same time, it remains virtually unknown within the Russian-speaking psychological community. The main purpose of the article is to help the reader get an idea of the history of CLT development, its main assumptions, and to demonstrate its high research potential. The first part presents the most significant works, which determined the direction of the theory’s development. The second part summarizes its key points. The last part considers the possibilities of CLT in building a deeper understanding of the nature of prediction, evaluation, choice, self-regulation, and a number of other processes.

General Information

Keywords: psychological distance, construal level, prediction, evaluation, choice, behavioral intentions, self-regulation, categorization, creativity

Journal rubric: General Psychology

Article type: review article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/jmfp.2022110312

Funding. The reported study was funded by Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), project number 20-01-00001.

Acknowledgements. The author are grateful for his supervisor Petrovsky V.A. for his help in preparing this article.

For citation: Medvedev B.P. Overview of the Construal Level Theory: history of formation, main provisions and research potential [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2022. Vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 127–139. DOI: 10.17759/jmfp.2022110312. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)

References

  1. Vygotskii L. S., Sakharov L. S. Issledovanie obrazovaniya ponyatii: metodika dvoinoi stimulyatsii [Concept Education: Double Stimulation Technique]. In Gippenreiter Yu. B. (ed.), Khrestomatiya po obshchei psikhologii. Psikhologiya myshleniya [A reader in general psychology. Psychology of thinking]. Moscow: MGU Publishing House, 1981, pp. 194—203. (In Russ.).
  2. Davydov V. V. Razvitie obobshcheniya u detej [Development of generalization in children]. Psihologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 1996. Vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 20—30. (In Russ.).
  3. Isaev E. I., Margolis A. A., Safronova M. A. Metodika razvitiya iskhodnyh matematicheskih i estestvenno-nauchnyh predstavlenij obuchayushchihsya do nauchnyh ponyatij v nachal’noj shkole [Developing Children’s Concepts in Mathematics and Natural Sciences in Elementary School: From Initial Representations to Scientific Concepts]. Psikhologicheskaya nauka i obrazovanie = Psychological Science and Education, 2021. Vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 25—45. DOI:10.17759/pse.2021260602 (In Russ.)
  4. Krivosheina I. V., Kotov A. A. Teoriya konstruktov raznogo urovnya N. Liberman i Ya. Troupa [Construal Level Theory of N. Liberman and Y. Trope]. Sotsial’naya psikhologiya i obshchestvo = Social psychology and society, 2016. Vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 5—18. DOI:10.17759/sps.2016070401 (In Russ.).
  5. Rubtsov V. V., Isaev E. I., Konokotin A. V. Uchebnaya deyatel’nost’ kak zona blizhajshego razvitiya refleksivnyh i kommunikativnyh sposobnostej detej 6—10 let [Learning Activity as The Zone of Proximal Development of Reflexive and Communicative Abilities of Children Aged 6—10 years]. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2022. Vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 28—40. DOI:10.17759/chp.2022180103 (In Russ.).
  6. Vallacher R. R., Wegner D. M. (eds.). A theory of action identification. New York: Psychology Press, 2014. 272 p. DOI:10.4324/9781315802213
  7. Adler S., Sarstedt M. Mapping the jungle: A bibliometric analysis of research into construal level theory. Psychology & Marketing, 2021. Vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 1367—1383. DOI:10.1002/mar.21537
  8. Akdim K., Belanche D., Flavián M. Attitudes toward service robots: analyses of explicit and implicit attitudes based on anthropomorphism and construal level theory. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 2021, article ID 1446, 38 p. DOI:10.1108/IJCHM-12-2020-1406
  9. Alter A. L., Oppenheimer D. M., Zemla J. C. Missing the trees for the forest: a construal level account of the illusion of explanatory depth. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2010. Vol. 99, no. 3, pp. 436—451. DOI:10.1037/a0020218
  10. Amodio D. M., Frith C. D. Meeting of minds: The medial frontal cortex and social cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2006. Vol. 7, pp. 268—277. DOI:10.1038/nrn1884
  11. Bar-Anan Y., Liberman N., Trope Y. The association between psychological distance and construal level: Evidence from an implicit association test. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2006. Vol. 135, no. 4, pp. 609—622. DOI:10.1037/0096-3445.135.4.609
  12. Boroditsky L. Metaphoric structuring: Understanding time through spatial metaphors. Cognition, 2000. Vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 1—28. DOI:10.1016/S0010-0277(99)00073-6
  13. Boroditsky L., Ramscar M. The roles of body and mind in abstract thought. Psychological Science, 2002. Vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 185—188. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9280.00434
  14. Buehler R., Griffin D., Ross M. Exploring the “planning fallacy”: Why people underestimate their task completion times. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1994. Vol. 67, no. 3, pp. 366—381. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.67.3.366
  15. Burgoon E. M., Henderson M. D., Wakslak C. J. How do we want others to decide? Geographical distance influences evaluations of decision makers. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2013. Vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 826—838. DOI:10.1177/0146167213481247
  16. Chan E. Y., Wang Y. Mindfulness changes construal level: An experimental investigation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2019. Vol. 148, no. 9, pp. 1656—1664. DOI:10.1037/xge0000654
  17. Chen M. F. Effects of psychological distance perception and psychological factors on pro-environmental behaviors in Taiwan: Application of construal level theory. International Sociology, 2020. Vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 70—89. DOI:10.1177/0268580919881870
  18. Choi S. Y., Park H. S., Oh J. Y. Temporal distance and blood donation intention. Journal of health psychology, 2012. Vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 590—599. DOI:10.1177/1359105311421048
  19. McCrea S. M., Liberman N., Trope Y., Sherman S. J. Construal level and procrastination. Psychological Science, 2008. Vol. 19, no. 12, pp. 1308—1314. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02240.x
  20. Fujita K., Trope Y., Liberman N., Levin-Sagi M. Construal levels and self-control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006. Vol. 90, no. 3, pp. 351—367. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.90.3.351
  21. Van Boven L., Kane J., Mcgraw A. P., Dale J. Feeling close: Emotional intensity reduces perceived psychological distance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010. Vol. 98, no. 6, pp. 872—885. DOI:10.1037/a0019262
  22. Förster J., Friedman R. S., Liberman, N. Temporal Construal Effects on Abstract and Concrete Thinking: Consequences for Insight and Creative Cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004. Vol. 87, no. 2, pp. 177—189. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.87.2.177
  23. Förster J., Liberman N., Shapira O. Preparing for novel versus familiar events: Shifts in global and local processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2009. Vol. 138, no. 3, pp. 383—399. DOI:10.1037/a0015748
  24. Freitas A. L., Gollwitzer P., Trope Y. The influence of abstract and concrete mindsets on anticipating and guiding others’ self-regulatory efforts. Journal of experimental social psychology, 2004. Vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 739—752. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2004.04.003
  25. Fujita K., Han H. A. Moving beyond deliberative control of impulses: The effect of construal levels on evaluative associations in self-control conflicts. Psychological Science, 2009. Vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 799—804. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02372.x
  26. Giacomantonio M., De Dreu C. K. W., Mannetti L. Now you see it, now you don’t: Interests, issues, and psychological distance in integrative negotiation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010. Vol. 98, no. 5, pp. 761—774. DOI:10.1037/a0017879
  27. Gilead M., Trope Y., Liberman N. Above and beyond the concrete: The diverse representational substrates of the predictive brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2019. Vol. 43, article ID e121. 73 p. DOI:10.1017/S0140525X19002000
  28. Griffin D. W., Ross L. Subjective construal, social inference, and human misunderstanding. Advances in experimental social psychology, 1991. Vol. 24, pp. 319—359. DOI:10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60333-0
  29. Halamish V., Liberman N. How much information to sample before making a decision? It’s a matter of psychological distance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2017. Vol. 71, pp. 111—116. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2017.03.004
  30. Han J. J., Gershoff A. D. When good things feel closer and bad things feel farther: The role of perceived control on psychological distance perception. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2018. Vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 629—643. DOI:10.1002/jcpy.1034
  31. Henderson M. D., Trope Y., Carnevale P. J. Negotiation from a near and distant time perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006. Vol. 91, no. 4, pp. 712—729. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.712
  32. Jia L., Hirt E. R., Karpen S. C. Lessons from a Faraway land: The effect of spatial distance on creative cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2009. Vol. 45, no. 5, pp. 1127—1131. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2009.05.015
  33. Kaju A., Maglio S. J. Urgently yours: Temporal communication norms and psychological distance. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2018. Vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 665—672. DOI:10.1002/jcpy.1051
  34. Kim Y. J., Park J., Wyer Jr. R. S. Effects of temporal distance and memory on consumer judgments. Journal of Consumer Research, 2009. Vol. 36, no. 4.pp. 634—645. DOI:10.1086/599765
  35. Ledgerwood A., Trope Y., Chaiken S. Flexibility now, consistency later: Psychological distance and construal shape evaluative responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010. Vol. 99, no. 1, pp. 32—51. DOI:10.1037/a0019843
  36. Ledgerwood A., Wakslak C. J., Wang M. A. Differential information use for near and distant decisions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2010. Vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 638—642. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.03.001
  37. Lewin K. Field theory in social science: selected theoretical papers. In Cartwright D. (ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951. 346 p.
  38. Liberman N., Förster J. Distancing from experienced self: How global-versus-local perception affects estimation of psychological distance, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2009. Vol. 97, no. 2, pp. 203—216. DOI:10.1037/ a0015671
  39. Liberman N., Sagristano M. D., Trope Y. The effect of temporal distance on level of mental construal. Journal of experimental social psychology, 2002. Vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 523—534. DOI:10.1016/S0022-1031(02)00535-8
  40. Liberman N., Trope Y. The psychology of transcending the here and now. Science, 2008. Vol. 322, no. 5905, pp. 1201— 1205. DOI:10.1126/science.1161958
  41. Liberman N., Trope Y. The role of feasibility and desirability considerations in near and distant future decisions: a test oftemporal construal theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998. Vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 5—18. DOI:10.1037/0022- 3514.75.1.5
  42. Liberman N., Trope Y. Traversing psychological distance. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2014. Vol. 18, no. 7, pp. 364— 369. DOI:10.1016/j.tics.2014.03.001
  43. Liberman N., Trope Y., Stephan E. Psychological distance. In Kruglanski A. W., Higgins E. T. (eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles. N. Y.: The Guilford Press, 2007, pp. 353—383.
  44. Liviatan I., Trope Y., Liberman N. Interpersonal Similarity as a Social Distance Dimension: Implications for Perception of Others’ Actions. Journal of experimental social psychology, 2008. Vol. 44, no. 5, pp. 1256—1269. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.04.007
  45. Loewenstein G. Out of control: Visceral influences on behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 1996. Vol. 65, no 3, pp. 272—292. DOI:10.1006/obhd.1996.0028
  46. Maglio S. J., Trope Y., Liberman N. Distance from a distance: Psychological distance reduces sensitivity to any further psychological distance. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2013. Vol. 142, no. 3, pp. 644—657. DOI:10.1037/a0030258
  47. Mitchell J. P., Schirmer J., Ames D. L., Gilbert D. T. Medial prefrontal cortex predicts intertemporal choice. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 2011. Vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 857—866. DOI:10.1162/jocn.2010.21479
  48. Nguyen T., Carnevale J. J., Scholer A. A., Miele D. B., Fujita K. Metamotivational knowledge of the role of high-level and low-level construal in goal-relevant task performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2019. Vol. 117, no. 5, pp. 876—899. DOI:10.1037/pspa0000166
  49. Metcalfe J., Mischel W. A hot/cool-system analysis of delay of gratification: dynamics of willpower. Psychological review, 1999. Vol. 106, no. 1, pp. 3—19. DOI:10.1037/0033-295X.106.1.3
  50. Nussbaum S., Liberman N., Trope Y. Predicting the near and distant future. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2006. Vol. 135, no. 2, pp. 152—161. DOI:10.1037/0096-3445.135.2.152
  51. Fiedler K., Junga J., Wänkeb M., Alexopoulos T. On the relations between distinct aspects of psychological distance: An ecological basis of construal-level theory. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012. Vol. 48, no. 5, pp. 1014—1021. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.013
  52. Lammers J., Galinsky A. D., Gordijn E. H., Otten S. Power increases social distance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2012. Vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 282—290. DOI:10.1177/1948550611418679
  53. Wakslak C. J., Nussbaum S., Liberman N., Trope Y. Representations of the self in the near and distant future. Journal of personality and social psychology, 2008. Vol. 95, no. 4, pp. 757—773. DOI:10.1037/a0012939
  54. Schimmel K., Förster J. How temporal distance changes novices’ attitudes towards unconventional arts. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2008. Vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 53—60. DOI:10.1037/1931-3896.2.1.53
  55. Schmeichel B. J., Vohs K. D., Duke S. C. Self-control at high and low levels of mental construal. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2011. Vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 182—189. DOI:10.1177/1948550610385955
  56. Wakslak C. J., Trope Y., Liberman N., Alony R. Seeing the forest when entry is unlikely: Probability and the mental representation ofevents. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2006. Vol. 135, no. 4, pp. 641—653. DOI:10.1037/0096- 3445.135.4.641
  57. Smith P. K., Trope Y. You focus on the forest when you’re in charge of the trees: Power priming and abstract information processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2006. Vol. 90, no. 4, pp. 578—596. DOI:10.1037/0022- 3514.90.4.578
  58. Elder R. S., Schlosser A. E., Poor M., Xu L. So close I can almost sense it: The interplay between sensory imagery and psychological distance. Journal of Consumer Research, 2017. Vol. 44, no. 4.pp. 877—894. DOI:10.1093/jcr/ucx070
  59. Fujita K., Henderson M. D., Eng J., Trope Y., Liberman N. Spatial distance and mental construal of social events. Psychological science, 2006. Vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 278—282. DOI:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01698.x
  60. Spence A., Poortinga W., Pidgeon N. The psychological distance of climate change. Risk Analysis: An International Journal, 2012. Vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 957—972. DOI:10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01695.x
  61. Soderberg C. K., Callahan S. P., Kochersberger A. O., Amit E., Ledgerwood A. The effects of psychological distance on abstraction: Two meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 2015. Vol. 141, no. 3, pp. 525—548. DOI:10.1037/bul0000005
  62. Liberman N., Eyal T., Trope Y., Walther E. The Pros and Cons of Temporally Near and Distant Action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004. Vol. 86.no. 6, pp. 781—795. DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.86.6.781
  63. Todorov A., Goren A., Trope Y. Probability as a psychological distance: Construal and preferences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2007. Vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 473—482. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2006.04.002
  64. Fiedler K., Jung J., Wanke M., Alexopoulos T., de Moliere L. Toward a deeper understanding of the ecological origins of distance construal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2015. Vol. 57, pp. 78—86. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.11.002
  65. Trope Y., Liberman N. Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological Review, 2010. Vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 440—463. DOI:10.1037/a0018963
  66. Trope Y., Liberman N. Temporal construal and time-dependent changes in preference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2000. Vol. 79, no. 6, pp. 876—889. DOI:10.1037//0022-3514.79.6.876
  67. Trope Y., Liberman N. Temporalconstrual. Psychological review, 2003. Vol. 110, no. 3, pp. 403—421. DOI: 10.1037/0033- 295X.110.3.403
  68. Viglia G. The sharing economy: Psychological mechanisms that affect collaborative consumption. Psychology & Marketing, 2020. Vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 627—629. DOI:10.1002/mar.21358
  69. Wakslak C. J., Kim B. K. Controllable objects seem closer. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2015. Vol. 144, no. 3, pp. 522—527. DOI:10.1037/xge0000066
  70. Wan E. W., Agrawal N. Carryover effects of self-control on decision making: A construal-level perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 2011. Vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 199—214. DOI:10.1086/658471
  71. Eyal T., Sagristanob M. D., Tropec Y., Libermand N., Chaikene S. When values matter: Expressing values in behavioral intentions for the near vs.distant future. Journal of experimental social psychology, 2009. Vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 35—43. DOI:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.07.023

Information About the Authors

Bogdan P. Medvedev, MA in Psychology, Postgraduate Student, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8781-4394, e-mail: bmedvedev@hse.ru

Metrics

Views

Total: 318
Previous month: 22
Current month: 8

Downloads

Total: 116
Previous month: 3
Current month: 0