Automatic Processing of Psychological Distance: Evidence From a Stroop Task

Yoav Bar-Anan, Nira Liberman, Yaacov Trope, Daniel Algom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


A picture-word version of the Stroop task was used to test the automatic activation of psychological distance by words carrying various senses of psychological distance: temporal (tomorrow, in a year), social (friend, enemy), and hypotheticality (sure, maybe). The pictures implied depth, with the words appearing relatively close to or distant from the observer. The participants classified the spatial distance of words faster when the word's implicit psychological distance matched its spatial distance (e.g., a geographically close word was classified faster when it was "friend" than when it was "enemy"). The findings are consistent with the idea that psychological distance is accessed automatically, even when it is not directly related to people's current goals, and suggest that psychological distance is an important dimension of meaning, common to spatial distance, temporal distance, social distance, and hypotheticality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-622
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • automatic activation
  • construal level
  • picture-word Stroop paradigm
  • psychological distance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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