The Use of Visual and Verbal Means of Communication Across Psychological Distance

Elinor Amit, Cheryl Wakslak, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study investigated the effect of distance on medium preferences in interpersonal communication. Five experiments showed that people's preference for using pictures (vs. words) is increasingly higher when communicating with temporally, socially, or geographically proximal (vs. distal) others. In contrast, preference for words is increasingly higher when communicating with those who were distal. A sixth experiment showed that communication's medium influences distance preferences, such that people's preference for communicating a message to a distant (vs. proximal) target is greater for verbal compared with pictorial communications. A seventh experiment showed that recipients are more likely to heed a sender's suggestions when the medium and distance are congruent. These findings reflect the suitability of pictures for communication with proximal others and words with distal others. Implications of these findings for construal-level theory, perspective taking, embodied cognition, the development of language, and social skills with children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • communication
  • distance
  • pictures
  • words

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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