Behavior change: Does distance matter?

Behavior change interventions attempt to change norm perceptions to bring about desirable effects. We examine whether psychological distance implicit to the information about a norm has any influence on how people perceive such information. We embed the variations on the dimensions of psychological distance (i.e., temporal, spatial, social, and hypothetical), each operating at two levels (psychologically closer vs. psychologically distant) in a statement conveying the norm. Each participant reads a version of the statement to indicate the preference to conform to the norm. In addition, the participants weigh 6 criteria on their relative importance to the indicated preference. We also assess participants’ value orientation to measure whether in general they adopt individualistic versus collectivistic orientation. Psychological distance did not account for the observed variation in the preference to conform to the norm. However, weighting exercise reveals that people evaluate information regarding a norm or the behavior in question. Moreover, weights attached to behavior show a negative association with the preference to conform implying that the norm is not in good taste with their personal values and prevailing norms. The disposition toward collectivism strengthens such reasoning. To conclude, we suggest future research directions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)