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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2004 Aug;87(2):177-89.

Temporal construal effects on abstract and concrete thinking: consequences for insight and creative cognition.

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International University Bremen, Bremen, Germany.


Six studies investigate whether and how distant future time perspective facilitates abstract thinking and impedes concrete thinking by altering the level at which mental representations are construed. In Experiments 1-3, participants who envisioned their lives and imagined themselves engaging in a task 1 year later as opposed to the next day subsequently performed better on a series of insight tasks. In Experiments 4 and 5 a distal perspective was found to improve creative generation of abstract solutions. Moreover, Experiment 5 demonstrated a similar effect with temporal distance manipulated indirectly, by making participants imagine their lives in general a year from now versus tomorrow prior to performance. In Experiment 6, distant time perspective undermined rather than enhanced analytical problem solving.

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