Idealistic advice and pragmatic choice: A psychological distance account

Shai Danziger, Ronit Montal, Rachel Barkan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


In 6 studies, we found that advice is more idealistic than choice in decisions that trade off idealistic and pragmatic considerations. We propose that because advisers are more psychologically distant from the choosers' decision problem, they construe the dilemma at a higher construal level than do choosers (Trope & Liberman, 2003, 2010). Consequently, advisers are more influenced by idealistic considerations that are salient at a high-level construal, whereas choosers are more influenced by pragmatic considerations that are salient at a low-level construal. Consistent with this view, Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that compared with choosers, advisers weigh idealistic considerations more heavily and pragmatic considerations less heavily, place greater emphasis on ends (why) than on means to achieve the end (how), and generate more reasons (pros) in favor of acting idealistically. Studies 3 and 4 provide converging support for our account by demonstrating that making advisers focus on a lower construal level results in more pragmatic recommendations. In Study 3, we manufactured more pragmatic recommendations by priming a low-level implementation mind-set in a purportedly unrelated task, whereas in Study 4 we did so by reducing advisers' psychological distance from the dilemma by asking them to consider what they would choose in the situation. The results of Study 4 suggest advisers do not spontaneously consider self-choice. Finally, in Studies 5 and 6, we demonstrate the choice-advice difference in consequential real-life decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1105-1117
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2012


  • Advice giving
  • Construal level theory
  • Decision making
  • Idealism and pragmatism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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