3. Limitations, implications and future directions
The link between mood and motivation represents one of the most promising areas for understanding the process underlying individual differences and ultimately cast some light on the relation between cognition, motivation, and affective states. Thus, it is pertinent to unravel and clarify the links between these two concepts. The present research illustrates that moods per se are not motivational states, particularly given that motivation is associated with goals while mood states are not. However, although moods are not motivational states themselves, they have a systematic impact on resource mobilization – either through an informational or through a directive mood impact. Study 1 focused on this particular issue of “mood as motivation”, and demonstrated that mood effects on behavior are rather context-dependent – as reinforced by studies 3 and 4. It is important to notice that in situations in which uncertainty prevails, contextual factors are usually more strongly attended to.
Therefore, mood will interact with all the other available informative factors and its weight will probably be reduced.
Cardiovascular diseases are one of the major causes of mortality in the world (G. Costa, 2006). In Switzerland, 20% of the adult population suffers from arterial hypertension and one third is not diagnosed (Bastard, 2008). This surprising number of undiagnosed cases can be due to some aspects of everyday lives that people are not aware of, but which can have detrimental effects on their health.
Indeed, people are subject to moods and task demands on a daily basis and most of the time they do not notice the impact of these constant elements on effort mobilization. Effort mobilization implies costs to the organism and can become a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. There is clear and replicated evidence that stronger cardiovascular reactivity during effortful coping with demands
predicts a greater risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (see Blascovich & Katkin, 1993). A chronically high cardiovascular reactivity is both a characteristic and a predictor of hypertension, and represents one of the main risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases (e.g., Light, Dolan, Davis, & Sherwood, 1992; Treiber et al., 2003). In addition, personality characteristics that are related to negative affective experiences are correlated with the vulnerability to cardiovascular disease (Kubzansky, Davidson, & Rozanski, 2005; Rugulies, 2002; Steptoe, Cropley, & Joekes, 2000; Suls &
Bonde, 2005). Findings from our lab can explain this correlation (e.g., Gendolla & Richter; 2005a; see Gendolla et al., 2007, for a review). The subjective demand in a negative mood is higher than in a positive mood, leading to a greater engagement of individuals in a negative mood when tasks are easy or have no fixed difficulty standard. The studies of the present research program strongly support this view. “Any average citizen can eventually arrive at the point where he can create a difficult situation and yet remain totally unaware of having done so. (…) Success is guaranteed as long as you manage to remain unaware of your own contribution to this pattern.” These quotes from Paul Watzlawick (1993, p.
48, p. 61) refer to everyday life situations, but they could as well be perfectly applied to moods and their effects on evaluative judgments and consequent resource mobilization – especially when people are unaware of their affective state. Therefore, results obtained in Study 2 can be unequivocally associated with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The finding that mood’s diagnostic value as information for effort-related judgments can be diminished by making people aware of their moods, can help people in adjusting their efforts more adequately to the real objective demand. Therefore, there will be more cardiovascular activation only if the task really requires more effort due to its difficulty (and not to an impact of mood on demand appraisals). Since it is the negative mood that poses more risks, work and educational settings should facilitate the experience of positive rather than negative moods. In particular, when educators or co-workers notice a member of their group in a negative mood, they should make them aware that their affective state can influence their effort mobilization.
The explicit focus on mood awareness can be useful in clinical psychology too. According to the MBM, dysphoric individuals have a motivational deficit due to their more negative evaluation of the actual situation on the basis of their negative mood (Brinkmann & Gendolla, 2007). The informational mood impact can be reduced by proposing tasks where no mention is made to the mood state and others with explicit mention to the affective state. These procedures can help patients to understand and concretely observe the impact of their mood states on behavior.
Traditional perspectives on mental workload consider that mental effort is an indicator of task difficulty that increases proportionally with the complexity or the difficulty of the task (e.g., Veltman &
Gaillard, 1998). Study 2 showed that this is not always the case: People in a negative mood mobilized less effort for a difficult task, and disengaged sooner, whereas they invested more effort than needed for an easy task.
In game developing, the importance of the use of contextual information (such as the level of difficulty) linked to engagement has already been recognized (Chanel, Rebetez, Bétrancourt & Pun, 2008). In a study by Chanel and colleagues (2008), an approach based on emotion recognition it is proposed to maintain engagement of players in a game (Tetris) by modulating the game difficulty. It was shown that the engagement of a player can decrease if the game difficulty does not change. The results also supported the interest of modulating the difficulty of the game according to the emotions of the player. Similarly, in entertainment and multimedia development the implication of mood could also be considered. For example, in the mentioned study, an explicit remark on the mood state of the player would eliminate mood as diagnostic information for behavior-related judgments (see Study 2) and could help to better predictions of engagement (as more directly linked to task difficulty). Another possibility could be a more discrete question about the player’s feeling state. This could help the electronic game to set the most adequate level of difficulty for sustained engagement. In this last scenario, according to our findings, the electronic game would set an easier task for someone in a negative mood, in order to maintain a longer engagement of this player in the game.
Another conclusion from our studies (studies 3 and 4) was that when a task is seen as pleasant, people in a positive mood invest more effort, meaning stronger cardiovascular reactivity. As mentioned previously, there is a higher risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease when the cardiovascular system strongly reacts to a mental demand. This implies that even happy people who like what they do can have a predisposition to cardiovascular disease. Thomas Edison is supposed to have said: “I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun” – for him, as for a lot of people, work and the invested effort are not seen as a burden; however this does not exclude future cardiovascular complications. The findings from studies 3 and 4 contradict other approaches that propose that positive affect has mainly or even only health benefits (e.g., Fredrickson, 2001; Ryff & Singer, 1998; Salovey, Rothman, Detweiler, & Steward, 2000).
Our studies demonstrate that it is important to care for people’s moods in general, and particularly in organizational, educational and clinical settings. A good work environment and work conditions have an impact on employees’, students’ or patients’ mood states. Mood states will then systematically influence motivation and – in most situations – performance and efficiency.
3.3. Final remarks and future directions