From “me” to “we”: The role of construal level in promoting maximized joint outcomes

Paul E. Stillman, Kentaro Fujita, Oliver Sheldon, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To minimize waste and inefficiencies, research has sought to understand under what circumstances decision-makers tasked with allocating outcomes to self and others maximize joint outcomes – making decisions that provide the greatest net gain across all vested stakeholders, irrespective of beneficiary. We explore construal level as a critical cognitive mechanism. We hypothesize that high-level construal – a representational process that expands mental scope by broadening attention to global, gestalt wholes – relative to low-level construal – a representational process that contracts mental scope by narrowing attention to local, idiosyncratic elements – should facilitate sensitivity to the welfare of the collective unit relative to specific individuals. Four experiments demonstrate that high-level relative to low-level construal promotes decisions that maximize joint outcomes, irrespective of beneficiary. These findings contribute to a growing literature examining factors that influence consideration of joint outcomes by highlighting construal level as a key cognitive antecedent, with theoretical and practical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-25
Number of pages10
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Construal level theory
  • Efficiency
  • Maximizing joint outcomes
  • Mixed-motive social dilemmas
  • Psychological distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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