Local and Global Evaluations: Attitudes as Self-Regulatory Guides for near and Distant Responding.

This chapter examines the question of when and why evaluative responses might be more or less consistent across contexts from a self-regulatory perspective. Specifically, we propose that evaluations can serve as self-regulatory guides for action either within the current context or outside of it. Whereas flexible action guides that incorporate local details in the current context tend to be useful for responding appropriately to proximal objects, consistent action guides that globally generalize across contexts are more useful for responding to distant objects. From this perspective, cues about distance should functionally influence the extent to which evaluative responses fluctuate or remain consistent across different contexts. More broadly, our goal in this chapter is to form a bridge between the literatures on attitudes and self-regulation to improve our understanding of how these often separate fields of research can each elucidate the other. We begin by briefly reviewing some of the ways that attitudes have been assumed to promote consistency or flexibility in the literature, and then describe why evaluative flexibility, as well as consistency, might be functional from a self-regulatory perspective. Next we discuss in more detail the notion that evaluations can either summarize information from the current context, thereby promoting evaluative flexibility, or summarize information that is consistent across contexts, thereby promoting evaluative consistency. We propose that distance plays a key role in determining which form of evaluative summary is used to guide behavior, and draw on construal level theory to delineate the cognitive process by which this could occur. After describing a series of empirical studies that provide support for several of our hypotheses, we discuss points of interface with other theories of self-regulation and self-control, and highlight some implications of the present perspective for understanding the role of evaluation in regulating action.

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APA-Format Citation

Ledgerwood, A., & Trope, Y. (2011). Local and global evaluations: Attitudes as self-regulatory guides for near and distant responding.