Psychological Distance and Subjective Experience: How Distancing Reduces the Feeling of Difficulty

62 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2011 Last revised: 19 Dec 2011

Manoj Thomas

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Claire I. Tsai

University of Toronto - Joseph L. Rotman School of Management

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

Psychological distance can reduce the subjective experience of difficulty caused by task complexity and task anxiety. Four experiments were conducted to test several related hypotheses. Psychological distance was altered by activating a construal mindset and by varying bodily distance from a given task. Activating an abstract mindset reduced the feeling of difficulty. A direct manipulation of distance from the task produced the same effect: Participants found the task to be less difficult when they distanced themselves from the task by leaning back in their seats. The experiments not only identify psychological distance as a hitherto unexplored but ubiquitous determinant of task difficulty, they also identify bodily distance as an antecedent of psychological distance.

Keywords: Psychological distance, construal level, feeling of difficulty

Suggested Citation

Thomas, Manoj and Tsai, Claire I., Psychological Distance and Subjective Experience: How Distancing Reduces the Feeling of Difficulty (December 2011). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming; Johnson School Research Paper Series No. 47-2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1931825

Manoj Thomas (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

353 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-7207 (Phone)
607-254-4590 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://forum.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/mthomas/

Claire I. Tsai

University of Toronto - Joseph L. Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada
416 946 3128 (Phone)
416 978 5433 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/facbios/viewFac.asp?facultyID=Claire.Tsai

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