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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Feb;98(2):268-80. doi: 10.1037/a0016960.

Politeness and psychological distance: a construal level perspective.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Tel-Aviv University, PO Box 39040,Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel. elena_stephan@hotmail.com

Abstract

According to politeness theory (P. Brown & S. Levinson, 1987), politeness serves to both reflect and regulate social distance. On the basis of this notion and on construal level theory (N. Liberman & Y. Trope, 2008; N. Liberman, Y. Trope, & E. Stephan, 2007), it was predicted that politeness would be related to abstract construal, temporal distance, and spatial distance. Eight studies supported this prediction. Politeness increased when the addressees were construed abstractly (Study 1), were temporally distant (Studies 2, 3), and were spatially distant (Study 4). It was also found that increasing politeness produced abstract construals (Study 5), greater temporal distance (Study 6), and greater spatial distance (Study 7, 8). These findings shed light on the way politeness operates in different cultures and is conveyed in different languages, and they support the idea that dimensions of psychological distance are interrelated.

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PMID:
20085400
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3193988
Free PMC Article
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