High Level of Construal and Psychological Distance Reduce Melioration

We examined how level of construal and psychological distance affected performance in a task in which value of alternatives depended on frequency of choice. Melioration, a sub-optimal choice strategy that fails to take into account such value changes, has been found to be prevalent and difficult to change. Participants repeatedly chose between two buttons to earn as many coins as possible. Button A earned N coins, button B earned N + 3 coins, and N was the number of A presses in the last five trials. In this situation, B has a higher immediate payoff, but because choosing A increases the return from both buttons for the next five trials, maximizing A choices is the optimal strategy. We predicted that because a global perspective is needed to appreciate the dependency of value on frequency of choice, frequency of choosing the globally maximizing alternative (A) would increase when participants apply a higher level of construal and assume a more psychologically distal perspective. Study 1 manipulated construal level through segmenting the sequence of trials into segments of different size, with bigger segments representing higher level of construal. In Study 2, participants played a practice game, and we manipulated the probability of playing the actual game. Both a higher level of construal and a lower probability of playing the actual game (higher distance) increased the number of A choices. These results suggest that a broad perspective that is induced by high level of construal or by psychological distancing may reduce sub-optimal, meliorating choice.

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APA-Format Citation

Pick‐Alony R., Liberman N. and Trope Y. (2014), High Level of Construal and Psychological Distance Reduce Melioration, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 27, 291–300. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1814