This wording sounds strange to an economist; to us someone's "values" are just whatever preferences explain his behavior. The behavior of folks thinking in near (concrete) mode is just as explainable as for those thinking in far (abstract) mode – it is just explainable via different preferences.
However, by "values" these psychologists actually mean what I'll call "ideals" – abstract, as opposed to concrete, goals that we verbally, and usually proudly, embrace. They include:
For example, the study checked if folks primed to think abstractly would say they were more willing to go out of their way to recycle a cell phone battery. In contrast,
Also: checking that a product is affordable or available.
Now the experiments actually had three treatments: abstract priming, concrete priming, and no priming. The fact that no priming gave the same results as concrete priming shows that near/concrete thinking is our usual mode. And I have suggested before that we tend to use near thinking to make decisions when personal consequences of those decisions matter more, while using far thinking when social images projected by those decisions matters more.
So the bottom line here is that we tend more to say we will act in accord with our verbally expressed and proudly embraced abstract ideals, e.g., individualism, collectivism, universalism, environmentalism, when we are put into the mental mode that was designed more for talking relative to doing – the far mode. In contrast, when we are in our usual near mode, designed more for doing than for talking, we tend to ignore those abstract ideals, focusing more on practically achieving our usual ends. Other studies have found similar results:
The key question, I think, is the same as yesterday's:
My next post will try to address this question.
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