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You Can’t See Much in the Dark: Darkness Affects Construal Level and Psychological Distance

  • This article investigates the interplay between darkness, construal level, and psychological distance based on the link between environmental lighting conditions and visual perception. In the dark, visual perception becomes less focused and detailed, leading to more abstract representations. We argue that this link between physical darkness and a global perceptual processing style spills over to the conceptual level. In three experiments, darkness triggered a more global perceptual and conceptual processing style than did brightness, regardless of whether the darkness was physically manipulated or primed. Additionally, two Implicit Association Tests (IATs) showed that darkness is more strongly associated with high-level construal than with low-level construal. Moreover, drawing on the generalized link between construal level and psychological distance, we proposed that darkness is also linked to perceived psychological distance because the lack of detail information and the abstract representations in the dark remove objects and other persons from people’s direct, detailed experience. Eight IATs confirmed the implicit link between darkness and four dimensions of psychological distance. These implications of these results are discussed with regard to thinking styles and social processes like stereotyping and cooperation.

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Author:Anna Steidle, Lioba Werth
Parent Title (German):Social Psychology
Publisher:Hogrefe & Huber
Place of publication:Bern
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2011
Date of first Publication:2011/01/31
Release Date:2023/11/17
First Page:174
Last Page:184
Als Nationallizenz frei verfügbar.