Has someone ever told you to look in the long term when making decisions?
Construal Level Theory (CLT)
Although defined differently, the CLT I am referring to is the one that classifies the difference in perspectives when you look at a situation in both long and short term. For instance, as I am only going to be enrolled in university next next year, I anticipate that part of my life to be about learning and personal growth. However, the reality is that when I am actually in university, it’d be about cramming, turning in assignments, and dealing with dorm mates. There are most certainly implications on us because of this.
There are mainly 2 implications: dampening morale and framing effect.
Take the university example that I mentioned for instance. When dealing with the things at hand, I soon become disillusioned, thinking that all of this is pointless because university doesn’t seem as ideal as I might think. Conceivable right? There are some things that we must come to understand in order to pick ourselves up. Firstly, we have to understand that it is CLT at work – we are blinded to the long term. Although turning in assignments, cramming and dealing with dorm mates might not seem to do much for me at the moment; in the long term, I accumulate knowledge, formulate my thoughts in a coherent manner and acquire interpersonal skills respectively. So after all, isn’t university living up to my own ideal? We must understand that life is tough and will put us to the test before we achieve what we want. Success seems easy but when you go down to the details of doing it, it gets tedious. Understanding that along with the detection of CLT can easily help us pick ourselves up when our morales are dampened.
And here we are at the intersection not long after we diverged from the framing road. So what has CLT got to do with framing effect? The answer is that CLT can be a form of framing effect, and it is a double edged sword.
The edge that hurts us
Other people can exploit our proneness to CLT to suit their purposes. For instance, a salesman who is trying to sell you steroids would glorify all the short term benefits such as added strength and bulging muscles but completely omits the long term health effects. Already being susceptible to the CLT, we are simply just being given a light push over the ledge to buy the product. People can amplify and exacerbate the CLT effect to exploit us. Knowing this should help you become more cautious.
The edge that helps us
The knowledge of CLT can help us to frame better. Knowing that people are susceptible to it lets us know that we must emphasize on the long term benefits because people are more blinded to it than the short term ones.
I find that it is especially in the interest of the Singapore government to make active use of the knowledge of CLT so that they will emphasize on the long term. The incumbent has always been pursuing prudent policies that favor the long term benefit for sustainability since LKY terms as PM, as observed by the confidential but no doubt massive amount of reserves we have. In promoting their policies, great emphasis has been and greater emphasis can be put into the long term benefits/viewpoint of their policies.
Doing our part as citizens
We as citizens are generally more worried about our next months’ pay cheque rather than our retirement funds, this is CLT at work; which is why sometimes paternalistic measures such as the CPF schemes are necessary. Understanding that as Singaporeans can make our politicians’ job easier; allowing them to focus on formulating policies that can further improve our wellbeing in other areas such as reversing our slowing economic growth (as it is quite the problem right now given the unfavorable global economic and geopolitical environment right now).
It has been a rather diverse post given that it relates to social psychology, university and politics. Nonetheless, it is useful because now we know that CLT can lead to our self-destructive mindset, use against us and allow us to frame more effectively. You may disagree with me on the government part as politics is inherently a divisive topic, that’s ok because that’s what democracy sounds like. But I urge you to listen to reasons rather than your own emotions because only through reasons can we reconcile our differences. Striving to bridge the gaps between people is what everyone should focus on in this era of divisive politics and terrorism; especially in our multicultural society.
Gilovich, T. and Ross, L. (2015) The wisest One in the room: How you can benefit from social psychology’s Five most powerful insights. Philadelphia, PA, United States: Free Press.