Psychological Distance: 10 Fascinating Effects of a Simple Mind Hack

Posted on June 24, 2016

This mind hack is simple: you imagine yourself way off in the future, or living in a different country or as a different person. The aim is to have that feeling of detachment, of stepping outside yourself, by whatever means you can.

This puts you into an abstract or psychologically distant frame of mind that has all kinds of effects on your perceptions of the world.

1. Make challenging tasks seem easier

When you are finding a task difficult, increasing your psychological distance from it makes it feel easier:

“Activating an abstract mindset reduced the feeling of difficulty. A direct manipulation of distance from the task produced the same effect: Participants found the task to be less difficult when they distanced themselves from the task by leaning back in their seats.” (Thomas & Tsai, 2011)

So, it’s just as true of physical distance as it is for psychological distance.
2. Generate self-insight

When things go wrong in life and you’re trying to work out why, psychological distance can help:

“…directing people to analyze their feelings surrounding negative autobiographical experiences from a self-distanced perspective (i.e., thinking about oneself from the perspective of a “fly on the wall”), in comparison to a self-immersed perspective (first-person perspective), leads them to experience less emotional and physiological reactivity in the short term, while buffering them against negative outcomes associated with rumination over time.” (Ayduk & Kross, 2010)

3. Become more persuasive

When people are considering a purchase, they are more persuaded when the framing is psychologically distant:

“Findings from two experimental studies, consistently show that consumers in a predecisional mindset (i.e., consumers still deliberating on an unresolved decision), are more likely to be persuaded by messages with psychologically distant orientation, which emphasize the future or target a distant other…” (Nenkov, 2012)

Source material from Psyblog

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