5. The Mood-Behavior Model
5.3. Informational mood impact
According to the MBM, a person’s mood will not have much visible impact on behavioral decisions, such as preferences for pleasant activities. When facing a demanding task for which sufficient commitment was provided, there are actually not many options regarding what to do: the decision of pursuing the task was already made. Nonetheless, mood states will have a systematic influence on performance. At the minimum, the mood state will influence work intensity (through evaluations of how much engagement is necessary to invest) and work persistence (via evaluations if enough has been accomplished). These influences on behavior’s intensity and persistence are due to an informational mood impact that affects the execution of instrumental behavior and consequently resource mobilization. Specifically, informational mood impact refers to the use of mood as a piece of information for behavior-related judgments and appraisals. This information is always integrated with all other available information, as advanced by Abele and Petzold (1994) (recapitulate section 2.4.6.). Also, departing from the idea that mood states can influence all evaluative judgments in a mood congruent manner (see Wyer, Clore & Isbell, 1999, for a review), Gendolla (2000) proposed that mood can consequently have an impact on task performance related appraisals in a mood congruent way (e.g., Erez & Isen, 2002; Kavanagh & Bower, 1985; Lane, Whyte, Terry, & Nevill, 2005). This means that people in a positive mood make more positive, optimistic judgments than people in a negative mood (e.g., Efklides & Petkaki, 2005). As depicted by Figure 3, the strength of the informational mood impact is a function of the mood’s effective informational weight and mood primed associations’ extent (Gendolla, 2000).
The informational mood impact refers to the answers people find when they ask themselves implicit questions once they are confronted with a demand. Questions like “Can I cope with this demand?”, “Is this task difficult?”, “Have I already achieved enough?“ or “How much effort do I have to mobilize?” arise in challenging situations. In these situations – and only in contexts that call for effort (Gendolla, 2000) – mood will be used as diagnostic information to evaluate task demand (e.g.,
Cunningham, 1988; Kavanagh & Bower, 1985). In a mood congruent way, people in a negative mood will tend to judge subjective ability and the likelihood of success as lower, whereas task difficulty and required effort are perceived as higher, than in a positive mood (e.g., Gendolla et al., 2001). This informational mood impact will affect resource mobilization, because energy investment is directly determined by subjective demand as long as it is possible and worthwhile to cope with a challenge (Brehm & Self, 1989). Therefore, moods per se do not involve effort-related autonomic adjustments, but moods can impact effort-related autonomic reactivity in active coping when they can be used as diagnostic information for demand appraisals (Gendolla & Krüsken, 2001a). Mood effects should only occur when moods are experienced in a context that directly calls for resource mobilization – such as task demand and effort regulation – because the mobilization of mental effort is generally experienced as unpleasant. In addition, moods are more effective in providing information when they are implicit rather than explicit due to the “bias correction”. When people are aware of their moods, mood’s informational weight is reduced and other task-related information – like task difficulty – will be more salient, having a major influence on demand appraisals and effort mobilization (Gendolla & Krüsken, 2002a). Another major assumption of the MBM – and a core issue for the present thesis – is that mood effects on behavior are mediated by psychological processes that are highly context-dependent (Richter et al., 2006).
Concerning the theoretical predictions about informational mood impact on effort intensity, the MBM posits that when no other information about task demand is available (e.g., for a task of unfixed difficulty, when people are asked to “do their best”) effort mobilization should be higher in a negative mood than in a positive mood, since mood is the only accessible information. In the presence of a fixed task difficulty (e.g., memorize a list of five non-words) resource mobilization will be determined by an interaction between mood and the performance standard defined by fixed task difficulty. Mood and task difficulty are the available and salient accessible information and therefore they will both be considered into the behavior-related judgment. When the task is easy, individuals in a negative mood will mobilize more effort than individuals in a positive mood, because subjective task demand is higher in a negative mood than in a positive mood. On the other hand, if the task is difficult, persons in a negative mood will not mobilize high resources because they already perceive task demand as being too high for them. This disengagement also occurs if the difficulty of the task is extremely high so that success is obviously impossible and thus mood has no effect: people – either in a positive or negative mood – will not mobilize energy. These consequences for effort intensity are illustrated in Figure 4 and will be explained in more detailed in the following sections 5.3.1. and 5.3.2..
Figure 4. The MBM’s theoretical predictions regarding informational mood impact on effort intensity. Figure adapted from Richter et al. (2006).
5.3.1. Tasks without performance standard
A task without a performance standard is a task for which no information is given concerning task difficulty and so the difficulty of the task is unfixed. A typical situation of tasks of unfixed difficulty is when people are asked to “do their best”. The MBM predicts that in these specific situations people will use their moods as task-relevant information to evaluate the extent of demand, and it will be this subjective perception of task difficulty that will determine engagement, due to the proportional relationship between demand and effort (Ach, 1935; Brehm & Self, 1989). If mood’s diagnostic value is not called into question, mood’s influence on task-related judgments will act in a mood congruent manner: people in a negative mood will be more engaged than people in a positive mood.
The hypothesized predictions were tested and supported by Gendolla and collaborators in a series of studies (e.g., Gendolla et al., 2001; Gendolla & Krüsken, 2001a, 2001b, 2002c). One of those studies, Gendolla and Krüsken, (2002a, Study 1) manipulated mood and mood’s diagnostic value as task-relevant information. Participants watched either depressing or elating video excerpts to induce respectively negative or positive moods. The mood induction period was preceded by a habituation period (for physiological baseline assessment purposes) and followed by the performance of a memory task.
Participants were instructed to memorize, in 5 minutes, as many items as they could from a list of twenty letter series (e.g., CLTW), an then write them down. However, half of the participants received
an extra note on their task instructions page, before the onset of the task. This note provided a cue for the mood manipulation, suggesting that the video excerpts they had seen may have long lasting effects on people’s feeling states. It was expected that the participants in this “cue” condition would discount the effective informational weight of moods as task-relevant information (as further explored in sections 2.4.3. and 2.4.6.); thus no mood effects on task engagement were anticipated for this condition. The other half of participants did not receive this cue (no-cue condition). The hypotheses were that participants would use their moods as diagnostic information for their demand appraisals and, as a consequence, mobilize more effort in a negative mood than in a positive mood. The results were as expected: during task performance, in a context that called for resource mobilization, SBP was significantly stronger in a negative mood when no cue for the mood manipulation was provided. When participants were aware of the mood manipulation (cue condition), the mood effect diminished and resource mobilization was roughly the same regardless the participants’ mood state. In addition, the results showed that mood had no effects on the cardiovascular responses assessed during the mood induction (in all conditions), although the mood inductions were highly effective according to the mood manipulation check. These findings were extended in a subsequent study (Gendolla and Krüsken, 2002a, Study 2) that applied a different task – a “d2 mental concentration task” (Brickenkamp, 1981)4 – and that involved a second mood manipulation check after task performance. The results were the same as before. Additionally, the second mood manipulation check found no influences of the cue manipulation on mood intensity (i.e., mood remained stable in all experimental conditions), allowing to exclude the alternative explanation that the cue manipulation neutralized participants’ moods and then reduced mood’s effect on cue. Mood congruency effects were also found on ratings of subjective task difficulty, demonstrating that mood influenced effort-related judgments.
In summary, the studies by Gendolla and Krüsken (2002a) have demonstrated that moods per se have no effects on resource mobilization, but when people are not aware of the mood manipulation to which they were exposed, they use their mood as diagnostic information for their demand appraisals and consequently display stronger effort-related SBP reactivity in a negative mood than in a positive mood – i.e., there is higher engagement in a negative mood than in a positive mood. These findings of informational mood impact for tasks of unfixed difficulty were further explored by using different mood induction techniques (music, autobiographical recollection, video excerpts) and different types of mental tasks – like a “d2 mental concentration task” (Gendolla et al., 2001; Gendolla & Krüsken, 2002c,
4 The “d2 task” consists of random sequences of the letters d, p, and q, that have placed above or below one, two, or no apostrophes. Participants should correctly identify ds that carry two apostrophes (e.g., d’’, d,,).
Study 2) or a verbal creativity task (Gendolla & Krüsken, 2001b). The results were identical across studies, allowing one to state that the informational mood impact on task engagement as conceptualized in the MBM seems to be a robust effect. Moreover, mediation analysis demonstrated that the evaluation of subjective demand was a significant mediator between mood and SBP reactivity during task performance (Gendolla & Krüsken, 2002c). This means that the correlation between mood and systolic reactivity decreased after the statistical inclusion of demand appraisals as a mediator.
Nonetheless these studies only assessed informational mood impact – they did not manipulate it. The present thesis intends to give further evidence for an informational mood impact by manipulating it.
5.3.2. Tasks with performance standards
A task with fixed performance standards is a task for which there is available information that allows to determine its objective difficulty (e.g., easy, difficult, impossible). Since people use their moods as task-relevant information in a pragmatic way, according to the MBM people integrate all behavior-related information into their judgments. Thus, if there is information about (fixed) performance standards, people consider both available diagnostic pieces of information – their mood state and task difficulty – to appraise the extent of subjective demand. Therefore engagement is determined by the interaction between mood and task difficulty, which is predictable by applying the MBM reasoning on the informational mood impact to Brehm’s motivational intensity theory (Brehm & Self, 1989) – see Figure 4.
The informational mood impact on effort intensity interacts with subjective task demand, resulting in the following theoretical predictions: (1) For an easy task, people in a negative mood mobilize more effort than people in a positive mood, since they evaluate the task as more demanding (subjective task demand is higher). (2) However for a difficult task, people in a positive mood mobilize more effort than people in a negative mood, because people in a negative mood perceive the task demand as already too high for them, resulting in disengagement. Conversely, people in a positive mood perceive the task demand as high but not yet too high, resulting in high engagement. (3) For challenges that are clearly impossible to achieve, where the difficulty of the task is extremely high, people disengage regardless of their current mood state. This means that mood will have no significant effect on behavioral intensity. According to the mood-and-information-integration perspective (Abele &
Petzold, 1994) applied to the MBM, the information regarding the task extreme difficulty is so salient that it will reduce the weight of the mood as diagnostic information.
Gendolla and Krüsken (2001a) tested the first two of the predictions above by inducing positive and negative moods with elating or depressing music, respectively. After habituation (for baseline assessment purposes), mood inductions with music, and a distraction task, participants were asked to perform the “d2 mental concentration task” (Brickenkamp, 1981). The performance standards were manipulated by telling the participants that they would have more than the average time to detect the
“d2s” (corresponding to the easy condition), or less than this average time (difficult condition). Results showed no cardiovascular reactivity in the period that did not explicitly call for effort (the mood induction period), but the groups differed in cardiovascular reactivity during task performance. As anticipated, when the task was easy, SBP was significantly stronger in a negative mood than in a positive mood. By contrast, when the task was difficult, reactivity was stronger for participants in a positive mood. In this experiment, DBP reactivity followed the SBP reactivity pattern. Another study by Gendolla and Krüsken (2002c, Study 1) extended these findings by showing that in the case of extremely difficult tasks, resource mobilization also conforms with the predictions. In this study, the participants’ mood was manipulated via autobiographic recall of a happy (for positive mood) or sad (for negative mood) life event. A memory task followed: participants had to recall series of letters (e.g., NJZL). In the easy condition they had to correctly memorize four series of letters within 5 minutes, whereas in the difficult condition they had the same time to memorize twice as many letters (eight letter strings). An impossible condition was also present, asking for the memorization of twenty letter series in 5 minutes. The physiological measures were assessed during the different experimental phases. The results followed the predictions: for the easy task, participants in a negative mood evaluated the task as more demanding and invested more effort, revealing stronger SBP than participants in a positive mood.
However for the difficult condition, the pattern inverted: people in a negative mood judged the task as already too demanding and disengaged sooner. For the impossible task, mood lost its impact on motivational intensity because the performance standard provided the clear information that success was impossible; consequently mood had no effect and SBP was modest for both mood states.
The studies by Gendolla and collaborators (e.g., Gendolla & Krüsken, 2001a, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c) found that mood and task difficult interact and have the anticipated combined effect on effort-related cardiovascular response.