The Psychology of Psychic Distance: Antecedents of Asymmetric Perceptions

Lars Håkanson, Björn Ambos, Anja Schuster, Ulrich Leicht-Deobald

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    Already on its introduction into the international business literature, the concept of ‘psychic distance’ implied asymmetry in the distance perceptions between country pairs, a characteristic corroborated in subsequent empirical studies. However, predominant empirical operationalizations and their theoretical underpinnings assume psychic distances to be symmetric. Building on insights from psychology and sociology, this paper demonstrates how national factors and cognitive processes interact in the formation of asymmetric distance perceptions. The results suggest that exposure to other countries through emigrants and imports of cultural goods and services have asymmetric effects on psychic distance perceptions. The size of these effects appears to vary with the size of the home country – smaller countries tend, on average, to perceive psychic distances to the rest of the world as smaller than do bigger ones. The reputational status of target countries relative to that of the home country is found to have a non-linear, asymmetric effect on distance perceptions.
    TidsskriftJournal of World Business
    Udgave nummer2
    Sider (fra-til)308-318
    Antal sider11
    StatusUdgivet - feb. 2016


    • Psychic distance
    • Cultural distance
    • Asymmetry
    • Distance cognition