Keeping one's distance: the influence of spatial distance cues on affect and evaluation

Psychol Sci. 2008 Mar;19(3):302-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02084.x.


Current conceptualizations of psychological distance (e.g., construal-level theory) refer to the degree of overlap between the self and some other person, place, or point in time. We propose a complementary view in which perceptual and motor representations of physical distance influence people's thoughts and feelings without reference to the self, extending research and theory on the effects of distance into domains where construal-level theory is silent. Across four experiments, participants were primed with either spatial closeness or spatial distance by plotting an assigned set of points on a Cartesian coordinate plane. Compared with the closeness prime, the distance prime produced greater enjoyment of media depicting embarrassment (Study 1), less emotional distress from violent media (Study 2), lower estimates of the number of calories in unhealthy food (Study 3), and weaker reports of emotional attachments to family members and hometowns (Study 4). These results support a broader conceptualization of distance-mediated effects on judgment and affect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Cues*
  • Culture*
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Object Attachment
  • Personal Space*
  • Reading
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Facilitation
  • Social Perception
  • Violence / psychology