Scale and construal: How larger measurement units shrink length estimates and expand mental horizons

Sam J. Maglio, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Scale can vary by requiring a different number of units to measure the same target. But what are the consequences of using fewer, larger units? We draw on past psychophysical research that shows how using fewer units reduces clutter in measurement, translating to shorter length estimates. Additionally, we propose that larger scale is associated with targets further from a person's immediate experience (i.e., psychologically distant) and higher order mental representation. Evidence from Study 1 indicates that framing a target as further away causes it to be estimated as shorter because people use larger units to measure it compared to when the same target is framed as nearby. Two subsequent studies suggest that direct manipulation of larger (versus smaller) measurement scale produces not only shorter length estimates, but also more distal timing judgments (Study 2) and abstract mental representation (Study 3). Implications for scale and level of mental construal are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-170
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Keywords

  • Construal level theory
  • Length estimation
  • Psychological distance
  • Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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