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Viewing time through the lens of the self: The fit effect of self-construal and temporal distance on task perception


  • Sujin Lee,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Management Science, Graduate School of Innovation and Technology Management, College of Innovation, KAIST, South Korea
    • Department of Management Science, KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), Building N5, #2110, 373-1 Guseong-Dong, Yuseoung-Gu, Daejeon 305-701, South Korea.
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  • Angela Y. Lee,

    1. Department of Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
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  • Mary C. Kern

    1. Department of Management, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, New York, USA
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  • This research was presented at the annual conferences of the International Association for Conflict Management in Pittsburgh, PA (June 2004) and the Academy of Management in Anaheim, CA (August 2008).


This paper describes how different self-construals influence people's perception of temporal distance and in turn their task evaluation. We hypothesize that people with a more accessible interdependent (vs. independent) self-construal perceive future events as temporally more proximal, and that people's reaction toward a task is intensified when the temporal distance to the task matches (vs. mismatches) their self-construal. Across four studies, we showed that individuals with a more accessible interdependent self-construal (Study 1) and East Asians (Study 2) perceived future events as more proximal than those with a more accessible independent self-construal and European Americans. Further, when considering a task at a temporal distance that fits their self-construal, individuals perceived a pleasant task as more motivating (Study 3) and an unpleasant task as less motivating (Study 4).

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

C. S. Lewis

Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.