Abstract Thinking Facilitates Aggregation of Information

Britt Hadar, Moshe Glickman, Yaacov Trope, Nira Liberman, Marius Usher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many situations in life (such as considering which stock to invest in, or which people to befriend) require averaging across series of values. Here, we examined predictions derived from construal level theory, and tested whether abstract compared with concrete thinking facilitates the process of aggregating values into a unified summary representation. In four experiments, participants were induced to think more abstractly (vs. concretely) and performed different variations of an averaging task with numerical values (Experiments 1–2 and 4), and emotional faces (Experiment 3). We found that the induction of abstract, compared with concrete thinking, improved aggregation accuracy (Experiments 1–3), but did not improve memory for specific items (Experiment 4). In particular, in concrete thinking, averaging was characterized by increased regression toward the mean and lower signal-to-noise ratio, compared with abstract thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Abstraction
  • Construal level theory
  • Emotion perception
  • Numerical averaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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