Friday, May 31, 2013

motivation, emotion, and making good decisions

The latest issue of Cognition & Emotion (Volume 27,Issue 4) just came out and I received the abstracts by email.  I have not read the entire papers (yet), but even the abstracts have some fascinating results that I thought I would share today.  If you trust my quick interpretations, it could save you from having to go find the papers yourself.

Here is the first one:

In general, our thinking is often strongly impacted by the mood we are in.  I am sure this resonates with your own experience.  Being in a good mood changes the way we look at otherwise neutral events.  Same with being in a bad mood.  Even if the mood is totally unrelated to what you are doing.  How often have you snapped at someone for no reason just because you are in a bad mood?  Or done something nice for someone for no reason except that you are feeling good? 

Most of the time, this probably doesn’t make much of a difference.  But other times, like big decisions at work, driving, or whatever, we really want to suppress the effects of our mood and just make the best decision possible.

A paper by Riemer and Viswanathan finds some new wrinkles in this.  They found that when we are making decisions based on things we see in the outside world, we are better at suppressing the effects of these strong moods when we are not very motivated by whatever we are deciding on.  On the other hand, when we are making judgments based on things we are accessing from our memories, we are better at suppressing the strong mood when we are highly motivated by the decision.

I have several thoughts on why this might be true, but I want to read the entire paper before jumping to any conclusions.  What do you think? 

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