We argue that probability, like space and time, instantiates psychological distance. Unlikely outcomes may seem more remote than likely outcomes and may therefore be construed at a relatively high level. Specifically, when the probability of an outcome is low, ends-related primary features should be more salient than means-related secondary features, but as the probability of the outcome increases, means-related features may become no less and even more salient than ends-related features. Thus, increases in probability should increase the weight of means-related features relative to the weight of ends-related features in decisions, thereby decreasing (or even reversing) the preference for a more desirable/less feasible outcome over a less desirable/more feasible outcome. We observed this pattern in two experiments. Analyses of judgments, monetary decisions, and self-reported reasons for decisions showed that the weight of means-related features was more sensitive to changes in probability than the weight of ends-related features in decisions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science
- Decision making
- Psychological distance