It’s all in the mindset: Effects of varying psychological distance in persuasive messages

Abstract

The current research shows that the persuasive impact of messages can be maximized if their framing is matched to where target consumers are in their decision making process at the time they evaluate the message. Results from two experimental studies show that consumers who are in the predecisional phase of decision making are more likely to be persuaded by messages framed using psychologically distant orientation (i.e., focusing on the future or targeting a distant other), whereas consumers who are in the postdecisional phase are more likely to be persuaded by messages using psychologically close orientation (i.e., focusing on the present or targeting a close other). Evidence of the process through which these effects occur is provided by showing that consumers in a pre- versus postdecisional mindset identify their actions in terms of the actions’ high- versus low-level identities, respectively.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    In both studies, I tested for differences in potential confound variables across experimental conditions and no significant differences emerged (all p’s > 0.10). Confound variable testing results are available from the author.

  2. 2.

    Measurement items for all constructs measured throughout the paper are available from the author.

  3. 3.

    Since money allocations added up to $5, I only included the ASN money allocation in the ANOVA, since predicting allocations to one foundation perfectly predicts allocations to the other.

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Acknowledgment

I gratefully acknowledge the financial support from a Kelly Faculty Research Award provided by Boston College. I would like to thank Jeff Inman, Kay Lemon, and Adam Brasel for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Gergana Y. Nenkov.

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Nenkov, G.Y. It’s all in the mindset: Effects of varying psychological distance in persuasive messages. Mark Lett 23, 615–628 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-012-9166-5

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Keywords

  • Temporal and social psychological distance
  • Deliberative and implemental mindsets
  • Action identification
  • Framing effects
  • Decision status
  • Persuasion