The Effect of Psychological Distance on Willingness to Engage in Ideologically Based Violence

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Adapa, Arjun
Caporale, Christopher
Griffin, Natalie
Hrab, Morgan
Jeong, Christian
Kim, Minhwan
Martino, Fonda
O’Meara, Rachel
Russell, Austin
Srinivas, Rahul
Yi, Richard
Research on the cognitive and decision-making processes of individuals who choose to engage in ideologically based violence is vital. Our research examines how abstract and concrete construal mindsets affect likelihood to engage in ideologically based violence. Construal Level Theory (CLT) states that an abstract mindset (high-level construal), as opposed to a concrete mindset (low-level construal), is associated with a greater likelihood of engaging in goal-oriented, value-motivated behaviors. Assuming that ideologically based violence is goal-oriented, we hypothesized that high-level construal should result in an increased likelihood of engaging in ideologically based violence. In the pilot study we developed and tested 24 vignettes covering controversial topics and assessed them on features such as relatability, emotional impact, and capacity to elicit a violent reaction. The ten most impactful vignettes were selected for use in the primary investigations. The two primary investigations examined the effect of high- and low-level construal manipulations on self-reported likelihood of engaging in ideologically based violence. Self-reported willingness was measured through an ideological violence assessment. Data trends implied that participants were engaged in the study, as they reported a higher willingness to engage in ideologically based violence when they had a higher passion for the vignette's social issue topic. Our results did not indicate a significant relationship between construal manipulations and level of passion for a topic.