Psychological Distance Promotes Exploration in Search of a Global Maximum

Daniel A. Yudkin, Rotem Pick, Elina Yewon Hur, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agents must sometimes decide whether to exploit a known resource or search for potentially more profitable options. Here, we investigate the role of psychological distancing in promoting exploratory behavior. We argue that exploration dilemmas pit the value of a reward (“desirability”) against the difficulty or uncertainty of obtaining it (“feasibility”). Based on construal level theory, which suggests that psychological distance increases the importance of rewards’ desirability (vs. feasibility), we expect that psychological distance will increase exploration. Four experiments support this prediction. In Experiment 1, participants who were prompted to consider an exploration game from a physically distanced perspective were more likely to leave a local maximum in search of a global maximum. Experiments 2 and 3 show that social distance has similar results. Experiment 4 finds evidence of a direct association between construal mind-set and exploration. Overall, this research highlights how psychological distancing strategies can promote exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-906
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • construal level
  • exploration
  • psychological distance
  • search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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