3. Moods and judgments
3.4. AIM: Affect Infusion Model
Facing the increase of experimental results that were obtaining non-systematic mood-congruency effects and thus disagreed with the classical network models, Forgas (1995a) developed the Affect Infusion Model (AIM)1. The AIM explores the influence of affect on cognition and its consequences, mainly on social judgments. The affect infusion can be defined as the process by which
1 The AIM is also considered a network model (cf. Corson, 2002).
affective information exerts an influence on cognitive processes, disturbing memory, attention or associative processes and possibly influencing the mood-congruent judgments (Forgas, 1995a, 2001).
This integrative multiprocess approach model considers both information and mood-as-priming approaches as significant, but each one under different circunstances. By adding process style assumptions, the AIM attempts to specify conditions for the occurrence of each of these processes. The model posits four alternative judgmental strategies: (a) direct access, (b) motivated, (c) heuristic, and (d) substantive processing. The degree of affect infusion into judgments varies along a processing continuum. While the first two strategies (direct access and motivated reasoning) involve the implementation of rigid process of direct recovery of information, leaving little room for affective infusion, the other two strategies (heuristic or substantive processing) involve more flexible and complex processes, that allow the onset of affect infusion. Accordingly, no mood effects on judgments are expected when a task is solved on the basis of direct access strategies or when motivation plays a major role.
The strategy of direct access is the easiest method; it relies on the recovery of information in memory or solutions previously considered and thus it is based on previous experiences and assessments. This strategy is especially used for familiar tasks, with characteristics that typically promote direct access to an already “stored” solution, where the personal involvement of people is low and no contextual, affective, motivational or cognitive component requires a more elaborated treatment. It is therefore a robust strategy that resists to affective changes (Fiedler, 1991). The motivated strategy is characterized by a substantial and specific motivational constraint for a particular outcome. Thus, individuals engage in a focused and precise information search, guided by a clearly identified and defined goal. The goal instigators for such a strategy can be diverse, such as mood regulation, achievement, boosting of individuals’ ego (or of other personality features) (Forgas, 1998;
Rusting, 1998). Nevertheless, the use of such a strategy leaves little or no opportunity for affect infusion.
Heuristic processing is implemented when persons cannot rely on former experience or when the judgments are of little importance for individuals, when they are not sufficiently involved and motivated. This kind of strategy involves treating information in a global manner, without too much effort, and taking into account only a limited amount of information while using all available simplifications. This type of strategy is implemented in familiar tasks, without goal-orientation, when the situation does not require accuracy, and when the person is in a positive mood and has limited cognitive capacity. The resolution of the task is then based on some elements of the environment or on the affective state – as proposed by the "How do I feel about it?" heuristic (Schwarz & Clore, 1988).
Substantive processing is the most demanding, since it requires a complex and elaborate analysis of the available information to produce an answer. This type of strategy is usually used in complex or unusual tasks, when the person is not particularly motivated, when cognitive capacity is not impaired, and when an explicit or implicit demand for elaborate reasoning is present. This strategy will only be applied if no other simpler and less costly solutions are available. As predicted by the AIM, many tasks requiring the use of this strategy have shown affect infusion (Forgas & Bower, 1987; Forgas, 1998; Sedikides, 1995).
The AIM suggests that the different judgmental strategies adopted in response to situational demands are the key to understanding the presence or absence of mood effects. The choice of a strategy is therefore directly dependent on the characteristics of the task (familiarity, typicality, complexity or difficulty), of the person (cognitive ability, goals, affective state), or of the situation (e.g., availability of objective criteria) (Forgas, 2001). An important feature of the model is the recognition that affect itself may influence both the choice of adopted strategies and the information taken into account by the individuals. In agreement with other models, the AIM predicts that positive mood leads to the implementation of superficial reasoning based on the use of simple heuristics, while negative mood leads to more analytical and extensive reasoning. The model recognizes that multiple mechanisms may be responsible for this asymmetry between positive mood and negative mood, but the purpose of the AIM is not to clearly distinguish them. In fact, the model suggests that the impact of mood on information processing is secondary when compared to the processing required by characteristics of the task or of the person (Forgas, 1992, 1993, 1995b). Unlike in other theories, the different judgmental strategies are the central aspect of the AIM predictions.
To summarize, according to Forgas (1995a, 2001) mood congruency effects on judgments occur if affect infusion is high (i.e., when moods affect judgments in terms of mood congruency effects).
Therefore, two relevant predictions can be linked either to a negative or to a positive mood state. First, if the personal relevance of a judgment is high, and sufficient cognitive capacity is available, the AIM predicts a substantial processing style, which means that mood influences judgments in terms of a mood-as-priming process. This seems to be particularly the case for a negative mood state. By contrast, if the personal relevance of a judgment is low, or only low cognitive capacity is available, moods are predicted to infuse judgments in terms of "How do I feel about it?" (i.e., the mood-as-information process). This strategy is posited to be more often used when one is in a positive mood. However, the AIM approach is not conclusive – for example, it does not contemplate the case of mood as diagnostic information in a relatively important behavior-related judgment.