The Hub of Being (43) Construal


It is impossible to experience the past and the future, other places, other people, and alternatives to reality. And yet, memories, plans, predictions, hopes, and counterfactual alternatives populate our minds, influence our emotions, and guide our choice and action. ~ Yaacov Trope & Nira Liberman

Everything is a mental construction, even perception. All that is experienced is a construal.

Psychospace is the subjective experience that something is close or far away from the self, here, and now. Psychospace distance is egocentric: its reference point is the self, here and now, and the different ways in which an object might be removed from that point – in time, space, social distance, and hypothetically – constitute different distance dimensions. ~ Yaacov Trope & Nira Liberman

Israeli psychologists Nira Liberman and Yaacov Trope construed construal level theory in 1998 to explain psychospace, which is the relative distance that the mind considers objects, actions, and events to be. The more distant something is construed to be, the more abstractly one thinks of it, and vice versa. Whatever is the focus of attention is always a concrete experience.

Mental construal processes traverse psychological distances and switch between proximal and distal perspective. Moving from a concrete representation of an object to a more abstract representation involves retaining central features and omitting features that by the very act of abstraction are deemed incidental. ~ Yaacov Trope & Nira Liberman

High-level construal is abstract: looking at the big picture, getting the overall gist. Conversely, low-level construal is concrete, focused on detail.

There are 4 psychospatial dimensions: spatial, temporal, social (interpersonal), and hypothetical (imagining event likelihood). For instance, the more likely something seems, the more concrete the mind takes it to be. The same applies to time and space.

Spatial distance is conceptualized as a dimension of psychological distance. People identify actions as ends rather than means to a greater extent when these actions occur spatially distant, as opposed to near, and they use more abstract language to recall spatially distant events, compared with near events. Spatially distant events are associated with high-level construals. ~ Japanese psychologist Kentaro Fujita et al

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A child’s mental development involves gaining pliability with psychospace – notably, learning to attain a higher-level construal. Maturing to achieve a proper perspective is a matter of psychospace management.

Human development in the first years of life involves acquiring the ability to plan for the more distant future, to consider possibilities that are not present, and to consider the perspective of more distant people (from self-centeredness to acknowledging others, from immediate social environment to larger social groups). ~ Nira Liberman & Yaacov Trope

Emotional intensity is an outcome of psychospace. Frustration is a very concrete experience which can be reduced by psychologically distancing oneself from the situation. More generally, increasing psychological distance via a high-level construal dampens the impact of negative emotions and makes challenging tasks seem easier.

Psychological distance can reduce the subjective experience of difficulty caused by task complexity and task anxiety. ~ Indian American psychologist Manoj Thomas & Taiwanese behavioral economist Clair Tsai