Regulatory Scope and Its Mental and Social Supports

Yaacov Trope, Alison Ledgerwood, Nira Liberman, Kentaro Fujita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptive functioning requires the ability to both immerse oneself in the here and now as well as to move beyond current experience. We leverage and expand construal-level theory to understand how individuals and groups regulate thoughts, feelings, and behavior to address both proximal and distal ends. To connect to distant versus proximal events in a way that meaningfully informs and guides responses in the immediate here and now, people must expand versus contract their regulatory scope. We propose that humans have evolved a number of mental and social tools that enable the modulation of regulatory scope and address the epistemic, emotive, and executive demands of regulation. Critically, across these tools, it is possible to distinguish a hierarchy that varies in abstractness. Whereas low-level tools enable contractive scope, high-level tools enable expansion. We review empirical results that support these assertions and highlight the novel insights that a regulatory-scope framework provides for understanding diverse phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-224
Number of pages21
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • change
  • construal level
  • planning
  • prediction
  • regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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