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Related Research & Scholars

Many scholars, researchers, and companies conduct their work within the fields of persuasive public speaking and decision making. Following is an enumeration of different bodies of work and scholars focusing on the themes of: qualitative or quantitative content analysis, persuasion, foreign policy decision making, and psychological distance. At the moment, this list is brief. The later goal is to grow this resource into what one might call an archive, or a database, where interested readers may easily access related research conducted not only by some of the most prominent thinkers, but also by the young and newly emerging scholars. 


Persuasive Discourse invites the reader to learn more about the crucial topic of psychological distance and its implications not only on foreign policy and but also on personal decision making.

Leather Bound Books
Quincy Wright



Wright believed that, the “concept of distance, springing from the simple idea of space, may be extended by analogy to many types of relations between two social entities” (Wright, 1955, p. 406). For example, “Social and political distances refer respectively to the degree in which the two groups have similar social institutions and to the degree in which they participate in a unified political system. Psychological and war-expectancy distances refer respectively to the degree of friendliness or hostility between two groups and to the degree in which they anticipate peace or war in their relations. These distances may be roughly measured by the method of comparative judgement. Analysis of the relation of these variables to one another has proven of some value in determining the probability of war between pairs of states” (Wright, 1955, p. 407). 

Kurt Lewin



Lewin, similar to other Gestalt psychologists, highlighted the importance of analyzing a “person’s subjective perceptions” and not to focus only on “objective” analysis. For instance, in his work Lewin, “emphasized the influence of the social environment, as perceived by the individual, which he called the psychological field. [He believed that] A full understanding of a person’s psychological field cannot result from an “objective” description by others of what surrounds the person because what matters is the person’s own interpretation” (Fiske & Taylor, 2014, p. 6). Furthermore, since Lewin’s work, social psychologists have argued that “social behavior is more usefully understood as a function of people’s perceptions of their world rather than as a function of objective descriptions of their stimulus environment (Manis, 1977; Zajonc, 1980a)” (Fiske & Taylor, 2014, p. 11). 

R.J. Rummel


"Perception is an active mental act. It is a dynamic, a dialectical conflict between the self's perspective transformation and external vectors of power bearing upon us. That which we perceive is a balance between these antagonists. 

What is the self? It is partly the intentions and superordinate goal that underlie a person's behavior (Rummel, 1975, Chapter 28). It is partly the psychological Gestalt from which the intention itself emerges. It is partly the psychological structure motivating us, forming our interests, and determining our temperament and moods. It is partly the psychological processes comprising our thinking-feeling-driving. It is in short the intersection of a variety of latents which we call personality and will."

Holding Books
Kathleen Powers, PhD


In the 2015 working paper, "Killing at a Distance: A Construal Level Approach to the Psychology of Drone Warfare," Dr. Powers discusses the fact that, "by physically separating an operator from her target, we might have removed a psychological barrier to the use of deadly force. In this paper," Dr. Powers attempts "to adjudicate part of this claim" by asking the question: "what impact, if any, might distance have on strike decisions?" Dr Powers uses "construal level theory from social psychology to determine how certain thought processes induced by distance lead a person to focus on the broad goal of the mission rather than the means by which she will achieve it."

Susan Fiske, PhD



"Professor Fiske's research addresses how stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are encouraged or discouraged by social relationships, such as cooperation, competition, and power. We begin with the premise that people easily categorize other people, especially based on race, gender, and age. Going beyond such categories, to learn about the individual person, requires motivation. Social relationships supply one form of motivation to individuate, and our work shows that being on the same team or depending on another person makes people go beyond stereotypes. Conversely, people in power are less motivated to go beyond their stereotypes. In laboratory studies, we examine how a variety of relationships affect people forming impressions of others."

Jennifer Lerner, PhD

"Drawing insights from psychology, economics, and neuroscience, her research examines human judgment and decision making.  Together with colleagues, she developed a theoretical framework that successfully predicts the effects of specific emotions on specific judgment and choice outcomes.  Applied widely, the framework has been especially useful in predicting emotion effects on perceptions of risk, economic decisions, and attributions of responsibility. For example, she has discovered and explained why fear and anger – although both negative emotions – exert opposing effects on the perception of risk."

Media Tenor

Founded in 1993, Media Tenor was the first media research institute to focus "on continuous 100 percent media analysis." "Media Tenor helps organizations leverage the media" by statistically evaluating media data and assisting them to better tailor their "messages to reach target audiences." The agency helps its clients "determine what reality is reflected (Agenda Setting) in the media and what reality is not selected or reflected in the media (Agenda Cutting). Researchers compare these results with external statistics [...] and further research the media's effects on public perception and behavior."




The International Geneva Perception Change project, founded in 2014, is an United Nations (UN) program that helps to explain the work of the UN and that of International Geneva, by highlighting the impact this work has on individuals' every day life. ​The website of the program states that, "The perception change efforts are centered around three main axes: making information accessible, changing the narrative, promoting the work of Geneva-based organizations and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and individual experience."



Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2014). Social Cognition: From Brains to Culture (2nd ed., repr). London: Sage.

Lewin, K. (1939). Field Theory and Experiment in Social Psychology: Concepts and Methods. American Journal of Sociology, 44(6), 868–896.

Manis, M. (1977). Cognitive Social Psychology: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3, 550–566. 

Rummel, R. J. (1975). The Dynamic Psychological Field. In Understanding Conflict and War (Vol. 1). Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications.

Wright, P. Q. (1955). The Study of International Relations. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Zajonc, R. B. (1980). Cognition and social cognition: A historical perspective. In L. Feistinger (Ed.), Retrospections on social psychology (pp. 180–204). New York: Oxford University Press.

Note: The copy for this page has been created based on the references mentioned above, the websites each resource is referencing, and on Sorina Crisan's PhD thesis: “The Politics of Intervention: The Role of Psychological Distance in Foreign Policy Decision Making,” Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, 2019.

Illustrations: Courtesy of photo gallery.

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