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Does Temporal Distance Influence Abstraction? A Large Pre-Registered Experiment

  • Sánchez, Amber M
  • Coleman, Christopher W
  • Ledgerwood, Alison
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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Construal level theory has been extraordinarily generative both within and beyond social psychology, yet the individual effects that form the empirical foundation of the theory have yet to be carefully probed and precisely estimated using large samples and preregistered analysis plans. In a highly powered and preregistered study, we tested the effect of temporal distance on abstraction, using one of the most common operationalizations of temporal distance (thinking about a future point in time that is one day vs. one year from today) and one of the most common operationalizations of abstraction (preference for more abstract vs. concrete action representations, as assessed by the Behavioral Identification Form). Participants preferred significantly more abstract action representations in the distant (vs. near) future condition, with an effect size of d = .276, 95% CI [.097, .455]. We discuss implications, future directions, and constraints on the generality of these results.

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