I haven’t posted as much on near-far theory (= “construal level theory”) lately, but that’s more because my interests have wandered; research progress has continued. Here are four recent papers. People who use more abstract language seem more powerful:
Psychologists have found that powerful subjectively experience slower time. I haven't seen this finding related to CLT, but it would make sense that far mode produces a slower sense of time (along with faster mental activity). [Organisms have more time to escape a threat or prepare to catch a reward when it is distant.] A recent paper on power and time perception (accepted for JPSP) fails, however, to mention construal level as part of the mechanism: http://static.squarespace.c... (The Power to Control Time: Power Influences How Much Time (You Think) You Have. [Time perception is likely the omitted link between procrastination and CLT--a link Katja Grace and I have separately addressed.------Also, I've just posted Plain-talk writing countersignals power invoking signaling theory and CLT: http://tinyurl.com/ppmv7vt .
The ability to get away with doing abstraction could signal that one has power.
Random thought for you, Robin, regarding abstraction as a sign of power (in a professional context). Maybe you've considered it. There are pleasant and unpleasant jobs at the modern American economy. Abstraction is more pleasant than performing a detailed analysis or setting a sales forecast because abstraction carries less risk and, while there may be a 'right or wrong' answer pertaining to the optimal strategy for an organization, a combination of obfuscation, politics, and a lack of numbers allows the abstractor to abstract as he or she wishes with little to no marginal impact on the operation of the business.
Thus, those who have achieved higher power through experience, politics, or inheritance, will necessarily choose abstract tasks for themselves. Thus abstraction is more of a spoils for the powerful than it is a strategy for becoming powerful.
That's a good question. It might be significant that the authors write of abstractness signaling power. (I don't think I've seen, in this literature, signaling and construal-level theory expressly linked.) In the signaling framework, the question is what is the cost of a person who isn't powerful using abstract language?
I think the cost is that if you use abstract language and don't habitually think in an abstract fashion, your speech or writing will sound artificial. That is, we are good at detecting phoniness in this respect.
[Added.] Another cost is the risk of using the abstractions incorrectly. Abstractions are harder to use correctly, so use of abstractions is a proxy for intelligence.
This might help explain the puzzling finding that abstractions promote the perception that one is powerful but not that one is high status (given that power is at least half of status). To distinguish power from status is to distinguish individual power from value as an ally. The intelligent are viewed as powerful but not necessarily as good allies; it can be dangerous to ally with someone smarter than oneself.
Why is that, anyway? I would have assumed from the experiments that talking more abstractly would at the very least be instinctively seen as 'putting on the guise' of a powerful person.
The last article is available ungated at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3...
Regarding the link between abstract language and perceived power: it has also been found that abstraction doesn't enhance status. ( http://tinyurl.com/ndc5cqn )
[High power coupled with low status has been shown to induce social conflict.]