Spontaneous Trait Inference and Construal Level Theory: Psychological Distance Increases Nonconscious Trait Thinking
Can psychological distance affect how much perceivers form spontaneous trait inferences (STI) from others’ behaviors? On the basis of construal level theory (CLT) which posits that distant (vs. near) entities are represented more in terms of their abstract, global, and decontextualized features, we predicted that perceived distance would increase the tendency for perceivers to draw spontaneous trait inferences from behavioral information about actors. In two experiments, participants learned about people who were perceived as being distant or proximal to the self, and STI formation was subsequently assessed. We found that perceivers were more likely to form STIs about distant vs. near actors from the same behavioral information. These findings generalized across two distance dimensions: space and time. In addition, we found that priming individuals to adopt a high-level (vs. low-level) construal mindset also resulted in increased STI (Experiment 3). In sum, psychological distance facilitates STI formation, and this occurs via high-level construal of actors and their behaviors.
Rim, S., Uleman, J. S., & Trope, Y. (2009). Spontaneous trait inference and construal level theory: Psychological distance increases nonconscious trait thinking. Journal of experimental social psychology, 45(5), 1088-1097.