The use of direct and indirect speech across psychological distance

Jianan Li*, Katinka Dijkstra, Rolf A. Zwaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


The current study investigated how psychological distance affects people’s preference for direct and indirect speech in a narrative task. In three experiments, participants were instructed to first watch a video and then retell what happened in the video to an imagined/anticipated listener. We manipulated social distance (Experiment 1), temporal distance (Experiment 2), and spatial distance (Experiment 3) between participants and the listener. We compared the proportions of direct speech in the narrations from psychologically proximal versus distal conditions. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that social and temporal proximity increased the rates of direct speech. Social and temporal distance, conversely, increased the rates of indirect speech. Experiment 3 did not yield a significant difference in the use of direct and indirect speech between spatially proximal and distal conditions. Taken together, our results indicate that different psychological dimensions might have discrepant effects on people’s choices between direct and indirect speech. Possible explanations for the discrepancy among different psychological distance dimensions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1816-1825
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the scholarship from the China Scholarship Council (201706750007). We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

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