The distance between us: Using construal level theory to understand interpersonal distance in a digital age
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Several authors have shown how communication using digital devices influences the experience of psychological distance. For instance, the hyperaccessibility associated with mobile phones reduces the felt distance between people who are separated by geographical space (Cummings et al., 2001; Sommer, 2002; Turkle, 2006; Katz and Byrne, 2013). This paper discusses how interpersonal distance, i.e., the perception of separation in space and time that people sense between themselves and others who are significant to them, is influenced by digital communication. It also explores the psychological mechanisms that can explain this influence. This work draws inspiration from construal level theory (Trope and Liberman, 2010), as well as specific studies that have explored psychological distance in specific situations, e.g., in virtual work groups (Wilson et al., 2013) and real-time streaming video situations (Lim et al., 2012). Our contention is that construal level theory can be applied to understand the effect of digital communication on a broad range of human relationships.