Automatic processing of psychological distance: Evidence from a Stroop task. Academic Article uri icon


  • A picture-word version of the Stroop task was used to test the automatic activation of 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 or distant from the observer. The participants classified the spatial distance of words faster when the word’s implicit psychological distance matched their 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 notion 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.

publication date

  • January 1, 2007