Stepping Back to See What Matters: Psychological Distance Reduces Diagnosticity Neglect in Social Comparison

41 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 21, 2017

Abstract

Social comparisons differ in their diagnosticity — that is, in the extent to which their outcomes are attributable to sources internal versus external to the self. While logic suggests that people should give more credence to diagnostic than to nondiagnostic comparisons, research shows that people often overlook comparison diagnosticity, leading them to drawing inaccurate conclusions about themselves — a phenomenon known as diagnosticity neglect. Here I examine a process that may reduce diagnosticity neglect: psychological distance. Because psychological distance — and the mental abstraction it engenders — helps people to organize information hierarchically, it may allow people to better distinguish between diagnostic and nondiagnostic information. Four experiments, using two distinct tasks (a bean bag throwing game and an anagrams quiz) and two forms of psychological distance (social and hypothetical), confirm these predictions; a preregistered fifth experiment demonstrates their real-world consequences. Overall, this research highlights the power of psychological distance to reduce diagnosticity neglect.

Keywords: social comparison, construal level, psychological distance, diagnosticity neglect

Suggested Citation

Yudkin, Daniel, Stepping Back to See What Matters: Psychological Distance Reduces Diagnosticity Neglect in Social Comparison (September 21, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3040459 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3040459

Daniel Yudkin (Contact Author)

Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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