Feeling Close: Emotional Intensity Reduces Perceived Psychological Distance

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 98, pp. 872-885, 2010

14 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2010 Last revised: 6 Mar 2012

See all articles by Leaf Van Boven

Leaf Van Boven

University of Colorado Boulder

Joanne Kane

Princeton University - Department of Psychology

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing

Jeannette Dale

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January 5, 2010

Abstract

The results of six experiments indicate that emotional intensity reduces perceived psychological distance. People who described events emotionally rather than neutrally perceived those events as less psychologically distant, including embarrassing autobiographical events (Experiment 1), past and future dentist visits (Experiment 2), positive and negative events (Experiment 3), and a national tragedy (Experiment 6). People also perceived an event (dancing in front of an audience) as less psychologically distant when they were in a more emotionally arousing social role (of performer) than in a less emotionally arousing social role (of observer, Experiment 4). Two findings bolster the causal role of emotional intensity in reducing perceived psychological distance. First, reported emotional intensity was negatively correlated with perceived psychological distance, and statistically mediated the effect of being in an emotionally arousing social role on perceived psychological distance (Experiment 4). Second, providing people with an alternative interpretation of their emotions (emotionally ambiguous whale “songs”) significantly reduced, even reversed, the negative correlation between self-reported emotional intensity and perceived psychological distance (Experiment 5). These findings about emotional intensity are consistent with the broader idea that perceived psychological distance is grounded in and influenced by the phenomenology of objective distance. Implications for theories of psychological distance, emotionality, and choice are discussed.

Keywords: emotion, intensity, judgment, psychological distance, subjective time

Suggested Citation

Van Boven, Leaf and Kane, Joanne and McGraw, A. Peter and Dale, Jeannette, Feeling Close: Emotional Intensity Reduces Perceived Psychological Distance (January 5, 2010). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 98, pp. 872-885, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1531661 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1531661

Leaf Van Boven (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, 345 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303.735.5238 (Phone)
303.492.2967 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/

Joanne Kane

Princeton University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

A. Peter McGraw

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

Jeannette Dale

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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