Construal is a social psychological term that refers to the way in which people perceive, comprehend, and interpret the world around them. We all need to interpret the world around us so that we can make sense of the world and determine our own actions and judgments. Construals are the way a person comprehends the behavior or actions of others towards him or herself.
A simple example of a construal:
Christopher has liked Samantha for a few months now and wants to ask her out to the upcoming school prom. He is a little shy and does not want to Samantha to respond negatively. As a social psychologist, you would not only want to observe Samantha's behavior towards Christopher, but also how he perceives and interprets her behavior towards him. If she gives him a smile, an observer may perceive it as her being nice, but if Christopher is having a bad hair day he may think that she is laughing at his hair. The way he interprets her behaviors, may come to conclusions that she does not have any positive feelings towards him therefore he will not end up asking her out.
Basic human motives are the reason people form construals; some of the mains reasons are a person's need to be accurate, and their need for self-esteem. Back to our prior example, the reason for Christopher to form the construal that he did was for his need to be accurate. He will want to make an effective judgment based upon how he views her behavior, but in fact he may base his decision on incomplete and inaccurately interpreted information. Christopher's need for self-esteem may prevent him from asking Samantha out because we human beings have a need to feel good about ourselves. If Christopher does approach her, and she responds negatively, his self-esteem would be damaged, hence he may not do so.
Lee D. Ross is a professor of social psychology at Stanford University is currently working on his theory of a special kind of construal which he calls "naïve realism." In a simple experiment, Ross takes peace proposals created by Israeli negotiators, labeled them as Palestinian proposals, and told Israeli citizens that the ideas on the proposal were the ideas that Palestinian wanted the Israeli to adopt. Then took the same proposals and left them the same way and told the Israelis that ideas on the proposal were the ideas that the Israelis wanted the Palestinians to adopt. The Israeli citizens liked the proposals from the Israelis to the Palestinians more than the proposal from the Palestinians to the Israelis even though they were the same proposal.
"Even when each side recognizes that the other side perceives the issues differently, each thinks that the other side is biased while they themselves are objective and that their own perceptions of reality should provide the basis for settlement."
Aronson, Wilson, & Akert. Social Psychology. Pearson Education Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 2007.