Probability as a psychological distance: Construal and preferences

Alexander Todorov, Amir Goren, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-482
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume43
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2007

Fingerprint

Psychology
Weights and Measures
experiment

Keywords

  • Construal
  • Decision making
  • Judgments
  • Probability
  • Psychological distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

Cite this

Probability as a psychological distance : Construal and preferences. / Todorov, Alexander; Goren, Amir; Trope, Yaacov.

In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 43, No. 3, 05.2007, p. 473-482.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{28e016b5dd104618ba3a66ea55e132a6,
title = "Probability as a psychological distance: Construal and preferences",
abstract = "We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.",
keywords = "Construal, Decision making, Judgments, Probability, Psychological distance",
author = "Alexander Todorov and Amir Goren and Yaacov Trope",
year = "2007",
month = "5",
doi = "10.1016/j.jesp.2006.04.002",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "43",
pages = "473--482",
journal = "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology",
issn = "0022-1031",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Probability as a psychological distance

T2 - Construal and preferences

AU - Todorov, Alexander

AU - Goren, Amir

AU - Trope, Yaacov

PY - 2007/5

Y1 - 2007/5

N2 - We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.

AB - We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.

KW - Construal

KW - Decision making

KW - Judgments

KW - Probability

KW - Psychological distance

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=34047157621&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=34047157621&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.jesp.2006.04.002

DO - 10.1016/j.jesp.2006.04.002

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:34047157621

VL - 43

SP - 473

EP - 482

JO - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

JF - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

SN - 0022-1031

IS - 3

ER -