Cognition From on High and Down Low: Verticality and Construal Level

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Abstract

Across 7 studies, the authors examined the relationship between experiences of verticality and abstract versus concrete processing. Experiencing high, relative to low, verticality led to higher level identifications for actions (Study 1), greater willingness to delay short-term monetary gains for larger long-term monetary gains (Studies 2 and 5), and more frequent perceptions of meaningful relationships between objects and categories (Studies 3, 4, and 6), demonstrating that high verticality leads to more high-level construals. Mechanisms of these effects were explored, and the studies present evidence suggesting that mood (Studies 3 and 4), felt power (Study 4), arousal (Study 4), perceptual scope (Study 4), superficial semantic associations (Study 5), and movement (Study 5) do not mediate these effects. Instead, we found that even minimal experiences of verticality influence construal level (Study 6) and that verticality can influence construal level independent of the many plausible mediators. Furthermore, the relationship is reciprocal with abstract and concrete processing influencing the verticality of one's visual perspective (Study 7), suggesting an intimate link between construal level (abstract vs. concrete processing) and experiences of verticality.

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