- Stepping back while staying engaged: When facing an obstacle increases psychological distance
- Social Psychological and Personality Science
- Volume | Issue number
- 3 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
When do people respond to obstacles by mentally "stepping back" and taking a more distanced perspective? Manipulating obstacles to social goals, to personal goals, and in a computer game, three studies tested the hypothesis that people should increase psychological distance upon facing an obstacle primarily when distancing is relevant, that is, when the obstacle appears on their own path to a goal or when they are engaged and motivated to follow through with activities. As expected, participants who imagined a goal-relevant versus a goal-irrelevant obstacle indicated greater estimates for an unrelated spatial distance (Study 1). Moreover, chronically engaged participants provided smaller font size estimates after thinking about how to reach a personal goal with versus without an obstacle (Study 2), and participants primed with engagement indicated greater estimates for an unrelated spatial distance after navigating a maze with versus without an obstacle (Study 3). Implications for related research are discussed.
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