Beyond valence in the perception of likelihood: the role of emotion specificity

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Mar;78(3):397-416. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.78.3.397.


Positive and negative moods have been shown to increase likelihood estimates of future events matching these states in valence (e.g., E. J. Johnson & A. Tversky, 1983). In the present article, 4 studies provide evidence that this congruency bias (a) is not limited to valence but functions in an emotion-specific manner, (b) derives from the informational value of emotions, and (c) is not the inevitable outcome of likelihood assessment under heightened emotion. Specifically, Study 1 demonstrates that sadness and anger, 2 distinct, negative emotions, differentially bias likelihood estimates of sad and angering events. Studies 2 and 3 replicate this finding in addition to supporting an emotion-as-information (cf. N. Schwarz & G. L. Clore, 1983), as opposed to a memory-based, mediating process for the bias. Finally, Study 4 shows that when the source of the emotion is salient, a reversal of the bias can occur given greater cognitive effort aimed at accuracy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anger
  • Cognition*
  • Cues
  • Emotions*
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Judgment*
  • Linear Models
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Psychological
  • Ohio
  • Psychological Theory