Impact of Mood on Decision Making

 

During our media of The Company (Laureate, 2011) this week, Karen appears to be suffering multiple personality disorder as she is friendly, supportive, and even flirty one day, whereas the next she is distracted, ill-tempered, and inhospitable.  What accounts for these significant mood swings?

Affect

There are a number of emotional reasons available to explain Karen’s behavior.  On the day she is friendly, supportive and flirty with Jose, she was able to have her cigarette, enjoy her favorite breathe freshener and get back to work after her break with nary a problem. The smooth flow of events may have contributed to Karen’s positive mood, which she happily expressed and pass on by being helpful to others.  The next day, however, Karen could not find her favorite breathe freshener, and then to compound issues, she was also locked out of the building.  Her frustration continued to mount as she continued to search for her squirty refreshment.  Unfortunately Karen’s irritation was passed along in her behavior towards Sally.

These behaviors are most basically the result of temporary contextual stimuli, rather than any ongoing personality trait.  For instance, Karen does not behave negatively or positively on both days, rather when the situation and/or context is modified her affect changes and as a result, her behavior changes as well.

Affect Infusion

Affect infusion is described as the tendency of affect to filter through into decisions and/or judgments.  Specifically, affect infusion may be defined as “the process whereby affectively loaded information exerts and influence on and becomes incorporated into the judgment process, entering into the judge’s deliberations and eventually coloring the judgmental outcome” (Forgas, 1995, p. 39).  Further, Forgas (1995) identifies separate judgment strategies determining when affect infusion is most likely to occur.  Specifically, Forgas (1995) refers to (1) the direct access of a preexisting evaluation, or (2) motivated processing in service of a preexisting goal, …(3) a heuristic, or simplified or a (4) a substantive, generative processing strategy to compute an outcome” (p. 40).  According to Forgas (1995) affect infusion is particularly likely when utilizing heuristic processing or substantive processing.  According to this hypothesis, Karen’s behavior may be the result of affect-as-information principle wherein “feelings can directly inform judgments during fast, heuristic processing as judges use their affective state as a shortcut to infer their evaluative reactions to a target” (p. 40).

Depletion Hypothesis

According to the depletion hypothesis (Bruyneel, DeWitte, Franses, & DeKimpe, 2009) cognitive depletion occurs as the result of active engagement in mood repair thus resulting in risky decision making and/or faulty judgments.  Application of this hypothesis to the current media would indicate Karen’s irritable behavior a byproduct of deficient cognitive resources due to a conflict between appropriate interpersonal social behavior expression and frustration over her lost object.

Life or Death

Affect can infuse decision making in positive and negative ways, which can include life or death decisions as well.  According to the depletion hypothesis, “depletion has been linked to behavior that is not conducive to long-term self –interest” (Bruyneel, et al., 2009, p. 155).  Accordingly, those actively engaging in mood repair may be unable to forego risky decisions or temptation, whether gambling, overspending, overeating, or otherwise.  Further, depleted cognitive resources can also be detrimental in seemingly innocuous daily life events such driving on the freeway when multiple factors come into play in deciding when to move, switch lanes, or in judging distance.  A risky decision in this context could easily result in a negative outcome for themselves, as well as other drivers.

 

References

Bruyneel, S. D., DeWitte, S., Franses, P. H., & DeKimpe, M. G. (2009). I felt low and my purse feels light: Depleting mood regulation attempts affect risk decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 22, 153-170. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bdm

Forgas, J. P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The Affect Infusion Model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin, 117(1), 39-66. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7870863

Laureate Education, Inc. (2011).  Social cognition and affect. Baltimore, MD: Author.

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