Probability as a psychological distance: Construal and preferences

Alexander Todorov, Amir Goren, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-482
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Construal
  • Decision making
  • Judgments
  • Probability
  • Psychological distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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