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Mood as input

Dr. Simon Moss

Overview

The mood as input model represents an extension to the feelings as information heuristic. According to the feelings as information model, moods and emotions signify whether or not individuals have performed adequately (Schwarz & Clore, 1983, 1988). When individuals experience positive affective states, they assume they have performed sufficiently and they hence withdraw effort. In contrast, when individuals experience negative affect states, they assume they have not performed adequately, which amplifies the effort they devote to their task.

These propositions emanated from Schwartz's (1990) cognitive tuning model. According to this model, negative moods imply the immediate environment is threatening and these concerns must be addressed. Individuals become more motivated to identify, alleviate, and eliminate the problem. They process information more effortfully and analytically to achieve this goal. In contrast, positive moods imply the immediate environment is safe and no further action is necessary& heuristic and effortless processing prevails instead (for evidence, see Bless, Bohner, Schwarz, & Strack, 1990& Bodenhausen, 1993 & Sinclair, 1988 & Sinclair & Mark, 1995 & Worth & Mackie, 1987).

To illustrate, Sanna, Meier, and Wegner (2001) provided some evidence of this model in the context of counterfactual thinking. As their studies show, after individuals fail to achieve some goal, they are more likely to identify factors that could have enhanced their performance, called counterfactual thinking, if they had previously been primed to experience a negative mood.

Indeed many other studies have verified the basic tenets of this cognitive tuning model. In particular, when participants experience a negative rather than positive mood, their performance on tasks that demand comprehensive, analytic processing in lieu of any reliance on heuristics or stereotypes improves (Bodenhausen, 1993 & Sinclair, 1988 & Sinclair & Mark, 1995 & Worth & Mackie, 1987).

Mood as input

The mood as input model extends this principle to other criteria. Specifically, according to Martin and Stoner (1996), and as substantiated in many studies (e.g., Hirt, Melton, McDonald, & Harackiewicz, 1996& Martin, Ward, Achee, & Wyer, 1993& Sanna, Turley, & Mark, 1996), affective states do not only signify whether or not performance is adequate but provides other information as well. For example, these affective states indicate to individuals whether or not they enjoying the task.

To illustrate, in some studies (e.g., Hirt et al., 1996& Martin et al., 1993), some participants are instructed to withdraw effort from a task once they feel that performance is adequate. In these instances, they withdraw more rapidly if they experience positive, rather than negative, affective states. Alternatively, other participants are instructed to withdraw effort from a task once they no longer enjoy this activity. In these instances, participants withdraw more rapidly if they experience negative, not positive, mood states. That is, the negative affective states imply that enjoyment has dissipated.

Implications of mood as input

Mood as input and creativity

The mood as input model also demonstrates the association between mood and creativity is more complex than previously recognized. Scholars tended to assume that positive moods enhance flexible and divergent thinking (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987& Isen, Johnson, Mertz, & Robinson, 1985)-a key facet of creativity--but might curb persistence and determination (for a review, see Hirt, Devers, & McCrea, 2008). For example, as George and Zhou (2002), negative moods can enhance creativity in environments that champion the importance of this quality: the negative affective state increases the effort the employees devote to creativity in these contexts.

However, Martin and Stoner (1996) challenged the simplicity of this proposition. In their study, individuals were granted 3 seconds to generate associations with words that appeared on a screen. They were then granted the opportunity to generate a different response to each word. Some participants were instructed to reflect upon whether or not they could "...come up with a better response", reflecting the criterion to maximize performance. These participants were more likely to generate another response if they experienced a negative, not positive, mood.

Some participants were instructed to reflect upon whether or not they could "...come up with a better response". These participants were more likely to generate another response if they experienced a positive, not negative, mood-because the positive states enhanced optimism. In contrast, other participants were instructed to reflect upon whether or not their "initial response is a good one". These participants were more likely to generate another response if they experienced a negative, not positive, mood-because the negative statesreduced the evaluation of their initial answer.

Consequences to performance expectancies

Consistent with mood as input, Dickhauser and Reinhard (2008) showed that mood also affects whether participants anticipate they will perform proficiently or ineffectively on a subsequent ask. When mood is positive, individuals tend to anticipate they will perform proficiently. Nevertheless, the precise role of mood is complex in this context.

Specifically, according to Bless (2001), when individuals experience negative moods, their attention focuses on the stimuli in the immediate environment. That is, a negative mood implies the context deviates from norms or expectations, undermining the utility of generic principles or knowledge.

In contrast, when individuals experience a positive mood, they are more inclined to apply their knowledge and disregard the immediate stimuli. A positive mood implies that context aligns with their expectations. The application of generic knowledge, hence, is adaptive (Bless, 2001).

Hence, when their mood is negative, individuals should confine their attention to more immediate stimuli to predict their performance on a subsequent task. In particular, they will restrict their attention to their abilities in the relevant domain only. In contrast, when their mood is positive, individuals should consider more generic principles, such as their ability in general , to predict subsequent performance.

To assess this proposition, Dickhauser and Reinhard (2008) instructed participants to evaluate their general academic ability as well as their capabilities on verbal or analogical tasks. Excerpts of music were then presented to manipulate mood. Finally, participants were asked to predict their performance on a subsequent analogical task.

Consistent with the hypotheses, when mood was negative, the performance expectations of individuals were primarily aligned to their perceived ability on other analogical tasks. When mood was positive, the performance expectations of individuals were primarily aligned to their perceived intellectual ability (Dickhauser & Reinhard, 2008).

Consequences to goal pursuit

As several studies indicate, a positive mood increases the likelihood that usually the most accessible goal of individuals is pursued. If individuals are prompted to enhance their skills, a positive mood will increase the likelihood this pursuit is fulfilled. Individuals, for example, will be more persistent on tasks that indicate achievement. In contrast, if individuals are prompted to enhance their emotions, a positive mood will again increase the likelihood this pursuit is fulfilled& they may focus their attention on desirable concepts (Fishbach & Labroo, 2007).

Presumably, a positive mood indicates the goal is suitable and appropriate. If the goal was incongruent with the environment or inappropriate in some other sense, individuals might be more likely to experience a negative mood instead.

Similarly, as Fedorikhin and Patrick (2010) showed, when individuals are exposed to settings in which they must resist a temptation, such as shun an unhealthy snack, positive mood will often improve this self control. That is, in these settings, individuals often recognize the need to resist temptation. Therefore, self control becomes the accessible or dominant goal. Positive moods tend to facilitate the pursuit of accessible goals and should thus improve self control (see also ego depletion).

Nevertheless, self control also demands concentration, in which individuals entertain thoughts that reinforce this resistance to temptation. Elevated levels of arousal may compromise this concentration and thus impair resistance to temptation. Thus, positive mood, if couple with considerable arousal, might impair self control.

Fedorikhin and Patrick (2010) conducted a series of studies that verify these assumptions. In the first study, participants first watched an excerpt of one of four films and attempted to identify with the protagonist. The film was intended to induce either a positive or neutral mood as well as either elevated or low levels of arousal. For example, one film depicted a sporting victory, evoking a positive mood with elevated levels of arousal. Another film depicted a car chase, evoking a neutral mood but with elevated levels of arousal, and so forth.

After watching the movie, participants were granted an opportunity to choose between grapes and M&Ms. Although tempting, if participants had experienced a positive mood but limited arousal, they were more likely to refrain from the M&Ms. Elevated levels of arousal, regardless of mood, impaired this capacity to refrain from the M&Ms.

Two important changes were introduced into the second study. First, to manipulate cognitive load, participants needed to memorize either a 2 or 7 digit number during the session. In addition, they listed the thoughts they entertained while choosing the snack.

When participants needed to memorize only a short number, the patterns of results that was observed in Study 1 was replicated in Study 2. However, when participants needed to memorize only a long number, even a positive mood with low arousal did not enhance resistance to temptation. Presumably, this memory task disrupted the concentration of participants, impeding their capacity to direct their attention to resisting the temptation. This finding, therefore, confirms that events that distract attention, perhaps including elevated levels of arousal, undermine self control. Indeed, when participants memorized long numbers or watched arousing stimuli, the thoughts they listed seldom alluded to self control.

Consequences to group decision making

One implications of mood as input is that negative mood states might, in some circumstances, enhance decision making in groups. Specifically, in many instances, key information about some matter are not recognized by everyone in the team, called unshared information. Unfortunately, when teams attempt to propose solutions or seek decisions, they neglect this unshared information. Instead, these teams direct their attention to shared information--that is, only the information that everyone knows. The decisions thus are sometimes misguided. In particular, these teams often seek consensus as soon as possible (for a review, see Kooij-de Bode, van Knippenberg, & van Ginkel, 2010).

According to Kooij-de Bode, van Knippenberg, and van Ginkel (2010), negative mood states sometimes curb this problem. That is, negative moods increase the likelihood that individuals consider information carefully rather than invoke heuristics and assumptions. These mood states, thus, might increase the probability that unshared information is considered. Decisions in which unshared information is relevant would thus be improved.

Kooij-de Bode, van Knippenberg, and van Ginkel (2010) verified this proposition. In this study, participants worked in teams of three on a task in which they needed to design a house that aligns with specific constraints. If the participants did not all receive the same information, their solutions were more appropriate if their mood on average was negative rather than positive.

Consequences to theory of mind and social interactions

When individuals experience a sad or negative mood, their theory of mind improves. That is, they could more readily differentiate between their own perspective and the perspective of someone else (Converse, Lin, Keysar, & Epley, 2008).

To illustrate, in one of the two studies that was conducted by Converse, Lin, Keysar, and Epley (2008), to evoke a positive or negative mood, participants listened to either a happy or sad song, putatively to evaluate headphones. Next they completed a false beliefs task. Specifically, some participants were told to imagine that a girl, Vicki, placed her violin in a blue box and then walked outside. Her sister then shifted the violin to a red box, but rearranged the room so the red box was now where the blue box had been located. Other participants received the same information, except were not told the violin was shifted to the red box. Participants were asked to consider which box Vicki would open to retrieve her violin.

If participants imagined the scenario from the perspective of Vicki, the likelihood she would open the blue box first should not differ between these two variants of the story. However, unlike participants who had listened to sad music, participants who had listened to happy music were more likely to assume that Vicki would open the red box first if told that her sister had shifted the violin. Their theory of mind, therefore, had been compromised.

In short, sadness seems to enhance theory of mind. Presumably, when individuals are sad, they feel the context is undesirable. Consequently, they reflect upon the perspectives of each person more extensively to redress or avoid further problems.

Neurological underpinnings

The somatic marker hypothesis

The somatic marker hypothesis, as proposed by Damasio (1994, 1999 & see also Jameson, Hinson, & Whitney, 2004), delineates one of the neurological mechanisms that underpins the association between affect and cognition. This model emerged from an examination of patients with lesions in the ventromedial region of the prefrontal cortex. These patients demonstrated a specific profile of difficulties.

Specifically, many of their capacities remained intact. They could readily solve logical problems. These individuals, however, did not perform effectively if the problems entailed risk and uncertainty. They did not shun alternatives that elicited negative consequences, as studies with the Iowa Gambling Task shows.

In essence, according to Damasio (1994, 1999), individuals learn associations between various features of events and their emotional experiences during these events. Over time, the features of these events themselves are sufficient to elicit the corresponding feelings. These feelings then bias the selection of actions--actions that tend to coincide with such affective states. For example, these feelings might shift attention from features that typically correspond to negative emotions. Interestingly, these associations, called somatic markers, are arguably stored in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a subset of the orbitomedial prefrontal cortex.

Alternative accounts and controversies

Limited capacity

Several alternative accounts have been proposed to accommodate some of the findings that are generally regarded as evidence of the mood as information account. For example, according to the cognitive resources account, positive moods activate a more extensive array of concepts than do negative moods. As a consequence, when individuals experience a positive mood, their cognitive capacity is consumed by the array of concepts that are activated (Mackie & Worth, 1991). Instead, individuals in a positive mood state need to utilize more efficient operations to process information, invoking schemas or scripts (Bless, Clore, Schwarz, Golisano, Rabe, & Wolk, 1996), stereotypes (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994 & but see Isbell, 2004), and heuristics (e.g., Ruder & Bless, 2003) to inform their decisions and evaluations.

Nevertheless, several considerations highlight the limitations of this account. First, according to some scholars, such as Ellis and Ashbrook (1988), some negative emotional states should activate more thoughts and concepts, partly as a consequence of rumination, than positive emotional states.

Second, as Huntsinger and Smith (2009) maintain, manipulations that are less likely to activate an extensive array of concepts yield the same pattern of findings (Ellis & Ashbrook, 1988). Happy facial expressions generate more efficient cognitive operations that sad facial expressions, even though neither protocol should activate as many concepts as recollections of happy and sad life experiences.

Third, in some contexts, individuals in a happy mood do not utilize stereotypes (Krauth-Gruber & Ric, 2000). That is, when cues imply the stereotypes are inaccurate, individuals in a happy mood utilize information that is unique to the individual. This finding implies that positive moods can facilitate flexibility rather than reliance on schemas, scripts, and stereotypes (see Isbell, 2004).

Hedonic contingency theory

Some of the findings that putatively support mood as input--or related account such as cognitive tuning and feelings as information--can be ascribed instead to hedonic contingency theory. To illustrate, many studies show that positive moods evoke more creative and flexible thinking (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005 & see Broaden and build theory). From the perspective of mood as input, feelings as information, and cognitive tuning, positive moods imply the environment is safe and thus individuals do not need to confine their cognitive operations to overcoming threats.

Hedonic contingency theory, emanating from the work of Wegener and Petty (1994, 1996), can also explain this set of observations (Hirt, Devers, & McCrea, 2008). According to this theory, when individuals are sad, a vast range of activities could improve their mood state. As a consequence, they do not need to scrutinize whether or not a forthcoming activity will elicit positive emotions& most activities should be more positive in tone than is their momentary emotional state. In contrast, when individuals are happy, a vast range of activities could compromise their mood state. Hence, they need to scrutinize, carefully and vigilantly, whether or not a forthcoming activity will impair their mood. Thus, happy individuals evaluate the emotional consequences of potential tasks more closely.

Thus, when happy, individuals are more inclined to engage in acts that promote positive mood states. Cognitive operations that demand creativity, novelty, and flexibility tend to evoke positive emotions. Hence, when happy, individuals might deliberately engage in these creative processes (Hirt, Devers, & McCrea, 2008).

According to this perspective, positive moods should enhance flexibility only if individuals assume that such cognitive operations will elicit desirable emotions. Hirt, Devers, and McCrea (2008) generated some data that confirm this argument. When happy, individuals did demonstrate more creativity--for example, they identified many novel exemplars of a category, such as modes of transport. This relationship between mood and creativity, however, persisted only when individuals assumed that such novel operations would boost mood.

Intervening regulation of emotions

Emotional regulation may have contaminated some of the studies that have examined the effect of mood on decisions and behavior. To illustrate, some individuals shun risky choices. Other individuals embrace risky choices& they may like to gamble or engage in hazardous activities. Many studies have examined whether or not emotions affect risks.

As Heilman, Crisan, Houser, Mircea, and Miu (2010) argued, however, these studies may be flawed. For example, suppose that a study showed that feelings of distress precede an aversion to risk. Researchers cannot conclude that distress reduces a propensity to risk. Instead, the distress may have provoked various emotion regulation strategies, and these strategies may have affected attitudes towards risk.

Indeed, this possibility was verified by Heilman, Crisan, Houser, Mircea, and Miu (2010). In this study, participants watched a movie that elicited either fear or disgust. However, these individuals had been prompted to either reappraise or suppress any emotions they experienced. Finally, they completed two measures that gauge propensity to risk: the balloon analogue risk task and the Iowa gambling task.

Regardless of the emotions, cognitive appraisal increased propensity to risk on the balloon analogue risk task. That is, participants were willing to increase the size of a simulated balloon extensively, to earn a reward, despite the possibility this balloon would soon pop. Their performance on the Iowa gambling task was also more advanced, especially before participants could articulate the payoff of each option.

Presumably, after individuals engage in cognitive reappraise, the intensity of negative emotions dissipates. Individuals feel safer and, therefore, are not as averse to risk. Accordingly, the observed associations between emotions and decisions may sometimes obscure the role of emotional regulation.

References

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Last Update: 5/15/2016