Temporal Construal

Department of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA.
Psychological Review (Impact Factor: 7.97). 08/2003; 110(3):403-21. DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.110.3.403
Source: PubMed


Construal level theory proposes that temporal distance changes people's responses to future events by changing the way people mentally represent those events. The greater the temporal distance, the more likely are events to be represented in terms of a few abstract features that convey the perceived essence of the events (high-level construals) rather than in terms of more concrete and incidental details of the events (low-level construals). The informational and evaluative implications of high-level construals, compared with those of low-level construals, should therefore have more impact on responses to distant-future events than near-future events. This article explores the implications of construal level theory for temporal changes in evaluation, prediction, and choice. The authors suggest that construal level underlies a broad range of evaluative and behavioral consequences of psychological distance from events.

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    • "This research proposes that psychological distance may influence sensitivity to omissions and the resulting evaluations. According to construal level theory (CLT), an event is perceived as psychologically distant when it is not directly experienced (Trope & Liberman, 2003). For example, consumers may form evaluations about a new innovative product (e.g., Google Glass) long before it is actually made available or they may base their evaluation on others' experiences vs. their own. "
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    ABSTRACT: Research has demonstrated that consumers are commonly insensitive to missing information and that this insensitivity can lead them to form strong beliefs and evaluations on the basis of weak evidence. A growing body of research has shown that sensitivity to omissions can be heightened and that this increased sensitivity results in more appropriate evaluations. Expanding on this, the current research finds that the level of abstraction by which a situation is construed can influence the likelihood of omission detection and the resulting evaluative judgments. A series of studies reveal that people are more likely to spontaneously detect omissions in near versus distant judgments, in concrete versus abstract mind-sets, and when they are inherently more likely to interpret actions in concrete versus abstract terms. Further, although prior findings suggest that people may have differential sensitivity to primary and secondary missing features at different levels of construal, the current research finds no such difference. The results of this study indicate that people are more sensitive to all types of missing information when construal levels are low, and that this sensitivity leads to more moderate and appropriate judgments.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Psychology and Marketing
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    • "For personal use only, all rights reserved. Trope 1998, Liu 2008, Trope and Liberman 2003). We therefore predict that when temporal landmarks serve as interruptions, leading people to take a higher-level, big picture view of their lives, people's motivation to achieve their aspirations will increase. "
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    ABSTRACT: The popularity of New Year's resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks. If true, this little-researched phenomenon has the potential to help people overcome important willpower problems that often limit goal attainment. Across three archival field studies, we provide evidence of a "fresh start effect." We show that Google searches for the term "diet" (Study 1), gym visits (Study 2), and commitments to pursue goals (Study 3) all increase following temporal landmarks (e. g., the outset of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday; a holiday). We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors. Data, as supplemental material, are available at
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Management Science
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    • "Construal Level Theory suggests that temporal distance changes people’s reaction to future stimuli by reconstructing their mental representations of the future events. Specifically, as the temporal distance increases, events are represented in a more abstract and general way (Liberman and Trope, 1998; Trope and Liberman, 2003). That is to say, in the Chiu (2012) study, individuals considering condition in the distant future engaged in abstract and high-level representations while those prospecting for the near future formed low-level representations. "
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    ABSTRACT: Reflecting on past events and reflecting on future events are two fundamentally different processes, each traveling in the opposite direction of the other through conceptual time. But what we are able to imagine seems to be constrained by what we have previously experienced, suggesting a close link between memory and prospection. Recent theories suggest that recalling the past lies at the core of imagining and planning for the future. The existence of this link is supported by evidence gathered from neuroimaging, lesion, and developmental studies. Yet it is not clear exactly how the novel episodes people construct in their sense of the future develop out of their historical memories. There must be intermediary processes that utilize memory as a basis on which to generate future oriented thinking. Here, we review studies on goal-directed processing, associative learning, cognitive control, and creativity and link them with research on prospection. We suggest that memory cooperates with additional functions like goal-directed learning to construct and simulate novel events, especially self-referential events. The coupling between memory-related hippocampus and other brain regions may underlie such memory-based prospection. Abnormalities in this constructive process may contribute to mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
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