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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (04) : 442-452     DOI:
The Effect of Construal Level on Intertemporal Choice and Risky Choice
CHEN Hai-Xian; HE Gui-Bing
Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hanghzou 310028, China
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Abstract  It has been proved that there exist a number of similarities between intertemporal choice and risky choice. The similarities imply that some equal processes may be included in these two choices.
Construal level theory (CLT) proposes a new explanation of these similarities. In CLT, time and probability are both dimensions of psychological distance, and are represented in similar ways (Trope & Liberman, 2003, 2010). Distant or uncertain events are represented as high level construals, whereas near or certain events are represented as low level construals. As events become more distant or less certain, the high-level construals become more influential whereas the low-level construals become less influential in shaping preferences. Meanwhile, delay or probability is represented as low-level construal in valuation of delayed or risky choices, whereas the magnitude of money is represented as high-level construal (Sagristano, Trope, & Liberman, 2002; Trope & Liberman, 2003).
The purpose of this paper is to shed some additional light on the underlying processes of intertemporal and risky choice by investigating the effects of construal-level mindsets on them. We hypothesize that construal-level mindsets have similar effects on intertemporal and risky choice because time and probability are represented in similar ways. As the magnitude of money (high-level construal) is more influential whereas time and probability (low-level construal) are less influential, participants with high-level mindsets might value delayed and risky money higher than those with low-level mindsets.
Two experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis. In experiment 1, 140 college students were procedurally primed to high or low level construal mindsets by considering questions related to “why” or “how” they engaged in certain actions, then some participants accomplished intertemporal choices (experiment 1a) and others made risky choices (experiment 1b). In experiment 2, 139 college students were procedurally primed to high or low level construal mindsets by reacting to global letters or local letters, then accomplished intertemporal choices (experiment 2a) or risky choices (experiment 2b). The results indicate that participants with high level construal mindsets value delayed and risky money higher than those with low-level mindsets, both in experiment 1 and 2. These results are consistent with the hypothesis.
The results may have some important implications. Firstly, time and probability are represented in a similar way, which can explain some parallels between intertemporal and risky choices, especially common difference effect and common ratio effect. Secondly, construal-level mindsets can affect intertemporal and risky choices, which reminds us to pay more attention to the influence of the decision context that may trigger different mindsets. Thirdly, construal-level mindsets can be triggered by both thought and visual perception, which gives additional evidence that the connection between psychological distances and construal levels could be activated automatically and implicitly.
Keywords construal level      psychological distance      intertemporal choice      risky choice      time discounting     
Corresponding Authors: HE Gui-Bing   
Issue Date: 30 April 2011
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CHEN Hai-Xian
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CHEN Hai-Xian,HE Gui-Bing. The Effect of Construal Level on Intertemporal Choice and Risky Choice[J]. , 2011, 43(04): 442-452.
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