Politeness and Psychological Distance: A Construal Level Perspective

Elena Stephan, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

According to politeness theory (P. Brown & S. Levinson, 1987), politeness serves to both reflect and regulate social distance. On the basis of this notion and on construal level theory (N. Liberman & Y. Trope, 2008; N. Liberman, Y. Trope, & E. Stephan, 2007), it was predicted that politeness would be related to abstract construal, temporal distance, and spatial distance. Eight studies supported this prediction. Politeness increased when the addressees were construed abstractly (Study 1), were temporally distant (Studies 2, 3), and were spatially distant (Study 4). It was also found that increasing politeness produced abstract construals (Study 5), greater temporal distance (Study 6), and greater spatial distance (Study 7, 8). These findings shed light on the way politeness operates in different cultures and is conveyed in different languages, and they support the idea that dimensions of psychological distance are interrelated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-280
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume98
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2010

Keywords

  • construal level theory
  • politeness
  • psychological distance
  • social distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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