New York University researchers focussed their study on 9/11 attacks, and analysed hundreds of public comments published or aired in the media from September 11 to 20, 2001.
They found that abstract or theoretical interpretations were a factor responsible for the tendency to be overconfident in estimating how long it would take to complete one's objectives.
The researchers also said that abstract construal might had contributed to national leaders underestimating the difficulties they would face in accomplishing their objectives stemming from September 11, 2001.
"Given that America's strategic decision makers also had power domestically, geopolitically, and militarily, and [that] power would [make them more abstract in their thinking], it seems likely that they would have overestimated their chances of achieving their goals," said the authors.
"As it turns out, in the aftermath of 9/11, the government began an escalation of military aggression that it is still seeking to resolve at the time of this writing.
"Our study opens up the question of whether or not this was due in part to the construal processes of government and military officials, influenced by the hypothetical nature of the situations they were considering and the power they held," they added.
The study is slated for publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.