Mood and cognition in context: affect as information for perception and memory
Kinley, Debra Jolene
Mood affects both cognitive content and processes. People often attend to and remember information better when it matches their current mood. When in a sad mood they also tend to process information at a more local level and in a happy mood they tend to process information more globally. However, these effects are inconsistent in the literature. The affect as information model was developed to predict when and how mood would influence cognition based on the perceived relevance of the mood and current cognitive focus (Clore, Gasper, & Garvin, 2001; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). The current series of studies tested the affect as information model principles by examining the influence of mood, task demands (judgments), personality factors (measured by the NEO-FFI-3), and their interactions. Hybrid faces were composed of two individual faces with different characteristics including spatial frequency, facial expression, and face gender. In a series of three experiments, participants made judgments about the hybrid faces presented (male/female, happy/sad) and then completed a memory test. I examined biases for content (i.e., facial expression) as well as biases in processing style (i.e., spatial frequency). Across the experiments, the task participants were engaging in was the strongest and most consistent predictor of performance. Affect, both in mood and personality traits, moderated the task effects by either enhancing or suppressing the task biases. A happy mood, high scores on extraversion, and low scores on neuroticism maintained or enhanced the task biases. In contrast, a sad mood, low scores on extraversion, and high scores on neuroticism tended to reduce these biases. Mood congruency was observed in memory discrimination, but was often only present with high spatial frequency faces, which may involve a greater level of conscious or top-down processing. Together, these findings support the role of affect as one piece of information in a constructive cognitive system, consistent with the affects as information model.