Psychological Distance Promotes Transcending of Local Maxima
58 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2017 Last revised: 19 Sep 2017
Date Written: April 1, 2017
Decision-makers are often confronted with the dilemma of whether to exploit a known resource or to venture out in search of potentially more profitable options. Here, we investigate the role of psychological distancing strategies in such exploration behavior. We argue that exploration dilemmas pit the value of a reward (desirability) against the difficulty or uncertainty of obtaining that reward (feasibility), and based on construal level theory we expect that psychological distancing will lead people to prioritize desirability over feasibility and thus increase exploration. Five experiments test and support this prediction. In Experiments 1A and 1B, we sought to confirm the notion that exploration dilemmas conform to the feasibility/desirability decision structure. In Experiment 2, participants who were prompted to consider an exploration game from a more physically distanced perspective were more likely to leave a local maximum in search of a global maximum. Experiments 3 and 4 provide convergent evidence that a more socially distanced perspective similarly results in more exploration. Overall, this research points to the effect of psychological distancing strategies in promoting exploration.
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