Probability as a psychological distance: Construal and preferences

Alexander T. Todorov, Amir Goren, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

126 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-482
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Construal
  • Decision making
  • Judgments
  • Probability
  • Psychological distance

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