Construal level and temporal judgments of the past: The moderating role of knowledge

Ellie J. Kyung, Geeta Menon, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The vast majority of work in construal level theory has found a robust relationship between construal level and temporal judgments for future events: Distance is associated with the abstract, and nearness is associated with the concrete. Our work looks at the past and proposes a critical moderator that reverses this relationship: knowledge. Through experiments involving real news events, we demonstrate that people with less knowledge about events felt nearer to them when recalling them in a concrete mindset versus an abstract one. However, this relationship reverses for those with greater knowledge: They feel closer to past events when recalling them in an abstract mindset versus a concrete one. We provide evidence that this reversal stems from feelings of metacognitive ease that inform temporal judgments when knowledge (which drives what information is held available and accessible in memory) and construal mindset (which drives what information is sought from memory) coincide. Our findings suggest that in memory, there are instances where the abstract seems near and the concrete seems distant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-739
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Construal level theory
  • Ease of retrieval
  • Memory
  • Mindsets
  • Time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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