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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Mar;80(3):410-24.

Abstract and concrete self-evaluative goals.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Assuming that people often hold the abstract goal of acquiring accurate feedback but recognize that acquiring favorable feedback can make the self-evaluative process more comfortable, the authors posited that low-level construals (of how action is performed) would elicit greater self-enhancement motivation than would high-level construals (of why action is performed). Individuals chronically using low-level construals had greater interest in downward social comparison (DSC) and less interest in negative feedback (NF; Studies 1 and 3). Decreases in temporal distance (which foster low-level construals) also elicited greater interest in DSC and less interest in NF (Studies 2 and 4). The latter effect was explained by participants' aversion to inconvenience (Study 5) and not by approach-avoidance conflict (Study 6). These results suggest that the level of abstraction at which people construe self-evaluative situations can influence their feedback preferences.

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