Politeness and Psychological Distance: A Construal Level Perspective

According to politeness theory (P. Brown & S. Levinson, 1987), politeness serves to both reflect and regulate social distance. On the basis of this notion and on construal level theory (N. Liberman & Y. Trope, 2008; N. Liberman, Y. Trope, & E. Stephan, 2007), it was predicted that politeness would be related to abstract construal, temporal distance, and spatial distance. Eight studies supported this prediction. Politeness increased when the addressees were construed abstractly (Study 1), were temporally distant (Studies 2, 3), and were spatially distant (Study 4). It was also found that increasing politeness produced abstract construals (Study 5), greater temporal distance (Study 6), and greater spatial distance (Study 7, 8). These findings shed light on the way politeness operates in different cultures and is conveyed in different languages, and they support the idea that dimensions of psychological distance are interrelated.

Reference Information

We continuously update our database. Please contact us to suggest references we have missed, or suggest an edit to an existing reference.

APA-Format Citation

Stephan, E., Liberman, N., & Trope, Y. (2010). Politeness and psychological distance: A construal level perspective. Journal of personality and social psychology, 98(2), 268.