Construal Level Theory

by Limbic on November 29, 2015

There was a lot of soul searching and anger around the time of the Paris massacre in November 2015 because the Paris massacre got so much attention whereas the Beirut bombing the previous day did not. Maybe Construal Level Theory explains it:

Construal level theory (CLT) is a theory in social psychology that describes the relation between psychological distance and the extent to which people’s thinking (e.g., about objects and events) is abstract or concrete. The general idea is that the more distant an object is from the individual, the more abstract it will be thought of, while the closer the object is, the more concretely it will be thought of. In CLT, psychological distance is defined on several dimensions ā€” temporal, spatial, social and hypothetical distance being considered most important,[3] though there is some debate among social psychologists about further dimensions like informational, experiential or affective distance.

An example of construal level effects would be that although planning one’s next summer vacation one year in advance (in the distant future) will cause one to focus on broad, decontextualized features of the situation (e.g., anticipating fun and relaxation), while the very same vacation planned to occur very soon will cause one to focus on specific features of the present situation (e.g. what restaurants to make reservations for, going for a trip in an off-road vehicle).

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