Psychological Distance and Subjective Experience: How Distancing Reduces the Feeling of Difficulty
62 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2011 Last revised: 19 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 2011
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
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