Short- and long-term impact of psychological distance on human responses to a terror attack

Ema Kušen, Mark Strembeck

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung


In this paper, we apply the construal level theory to examine how temporal, social, and geographical distance affect the responses of social media users who have been confronted with the 2020 Vienna terror attack. We report on a long-term analysis that covers a time period of one year. The analysis is based on a data-set of more than 500,000 Twitter messages. Our findings indicate that proximity to the event plays a significant role in how people cope with a terror attack. For example, we found that users with closer social bonds to people who have been directly affected by the attack, as well as users who have been geographically closer to the location of the attack, contributed more to the Twitter discourse than users with a larger social or geographical distance to the event. However, we also found that death anxiety was most intense in users located the furthest away from the attack, in different countries all around the world. Thus, a larger geographical distance to a terror attack seems to increase the level of death anxiety and the psychological effects induced by terror attacks are not restricted to people who are socially or geographically close to an attack. Among other things, we also found that religious references have been used in positive as well as negative responses. We used the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) tool to identify psycholinguistic features in our data-set.
OriginalspracheEnglisch (Amerika)
FachzeitschriftOnline Social Networks and Media
Frühes Online-DatumJan. 2023
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2023